Toxic lucky charms could bring misfortune

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A saleslady cleans a statue of a golden horse in a store in Binondo, Manila on Friday. Next year is the Chinese Year of the Horse, believed to be a good year for business. A horse with two legs off the ground is believed to bring good luck to homes and businesses.
Photo by Edwin Muli

Lucky charms, which are popular purchases during the New Year, may bring more misfortune than good luck, an environmental watchdog has warned.

The EcoWaste Coalition said high levels of toxic metals have been detected in some of the charms being sold in stores and by sidewalk vendors along Villalobos St. and in Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila.

The group said 20 out of the 20 lucky charms it analyzed with a handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometer were found positive for one or more hazardous substances such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium and lead.

Arsenic, cadmium and lead are listed in the World Health Organization’s “Ten Chemicals of Major Public Health Concern,” which, with antimony and chromium, are also on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ “Priority Chemicals List.”


These chemicals are linked to serious health concerns such as reproductive abnormalities, birth disorders, developmental delays, neurological ailments, cardiovascular diseases, hormonal disruptions, behavioral problems and cancers.

“Lucky charms that are marketed to bring in lasting prosperity, good health and longevity should not contain injurious substances that can make people miserable and sick,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“And if they do, their manufacturers, importers distributors or vendors should be responsible enough to inform and warn consumers,” he said.

Among the samples that showed high levels of toxic metals were lucky bracelets, figurines and mobile hangings, including horse-inspired items celebrating 2014 as the year of the “green wooden horse” according to the Chinese lunar calendar.

Thirteen of the 20 charms had lead in excess of 90 parts per million (ppm) with the following six items having the highest lead levels:

1. Yin Yang Bagua hanging charm with tassel (big), P58, with 75,900 ppm lead.

2. Yin Yang Bagua hanging charm with tassel (small), P38, with P45,300 ppm lead.

3. Horse figurine with Zodiac animals, P50, with 3,731 ppm lead.

4.Horse figurine (green), P35, with 3,559 ppm lead.

5. Wood Bagua (yellow), P60, with 3,274 ppm lead.

6. Horse figurine (beige), P10, with 1,075 ppm lead.

Lucky charms with the highest levels of chromium, antimony, cadmium and
arsenic include:

1. Yin Yang Bagua hanging charm with tassel (big), P58, with 12,300 ppm chromium.

2. Snake and coins hanging charm, P35, with 4,848 ppm antimony.

3. Lucky charm bracelet with heart, P50, with 2,334 ppm cadmium.

4. Lucky charm bracelet with snake, P50, 596 ppm arsenic

Instead of buying lucky charms with undisclosed toxic materials, it would be better for luck seekers to go for non-toxic tools to attract positive energy, fortune and happiness, Dizon said.

“Displaying lucky plants, preparing 12 round fruits, wearing red and polka-dots, serving ‘tikoy,’ ‘biko” and other sticky delicacies, eating long noodles and healthy meals, cleaning the house prior to New Year, saying fervent prayers with matching hard work, and boosting positive karma by doing good deeds might just do the trick,” he said.

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