Retailers urged to stop sale of lead-laced candles

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Toxic chemical and waste watch group EcoWaste Coalition has urged retailers in Manila’s Chinatown to halt the sale of candles with lead-cored wicks.

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On Monday, the group conducted an awareness campaign at 11 stores in Chinatown to ask the retailers to stop the importation and sale of candles with leaded wicks.

The leaded wick candles are manufactured in China.

“Fortunately, most locally-made candles are non-cored wicks made of braided or twisted cotton and present no risk of lead pollution,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

The group notified the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year about the trade of leaded wick candles in the local market, pointing out that these would be illegal to sell in other countries such as in Australia, Finland, Denmark and the US, which have all banned candles with lead-cored wicks. Australia in 2002 imposed a permanent ban on candles with wicks that contain 0.06 percent lead.

LEAD RISK FROM CANDLES EcoWaste Coalition members conduct an awareness campaign for Chinatown retailers to inform them of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) advisory warning of the dangers of candles containing lead-cored wicks. ECOWASTE COALITION PHOTO

LEAD RISK FROM CANDLES EcoWaste Coalition members conduct an awareness campaign for Chinatown retailers to inform them of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) advisory warning of the dangers of candles containing lead-cored wicks. ECOWASTE COALITION PHOTO

“With the health and safety of the consumers in mind, particularly children who are most vulnerable to lead exposure, we request the FDA to release a public health warning against lead-cored wick candles and to stop importers, distributors and retailers from selling such toxic candles,” the group wrote to the FDA in September 2016.

In response to EcoWaste Coalition’s notification, the agency issued FDA Advisory 2016-146 entitled “Public Health Advisory on Lead-Cored Wick Candles” last month.

“While the advisory did not ban the sale of lead-cored wick candles as we have sought, it clearly warned that the purchase and use of such candles pose an ‘imminent hazard to the public health,’ providing a cue that such products must not be produced and sold at all,” Dizon said.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that a follow-up directive would outlaw the sale of all candles with wicks and other components containing lead for full compliance by candle makers and traders,” he added.

Armed with copies of the advisory, EcoWaste Coalition members visited stores selling Chinese praying paraphernalia such as candles and informed storeowners about the adverse health effects of candles with lead-cored wicks.

“As a lead-cored wick candle burns, some of the lead may vaporize and be released into the air. This airborne lead may be inhaled and may deposit onto floors, furniture and other surfaces in the room where children may be exposed to it,” the FDA advisory said.

The FDA said that exposure to lead emissions “can result in increased blood lead levels in unborn babies, babies and young children,” adding that, “other toxic effects include neurological damage, delayed mental and physical development, and attention and learning deficiencies.”

EcoWaste Coalition disclosed that in 2014 the group bought imported candles with lead-cored wicks from Wonderful Trading, a shop selling Chinese prayer articles, and then sent them to a private laboratory for lead content analysis. As per the laboratory test report, the wicks of approximately 20 candles were found to contain 20.735 percent lead.

“As a precaution against lead exposure, we advise consumers to patronize ‘made in the Philippines’ candles with non-cored wicks and avoid those with cored wicks as the metal inside may be lead-based,” Dizon said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has long maintained, “There is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe,” and lists lead as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”

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