12 August 2011

DepEd Chief Requested to Support "Cleansing" of Toxic School Supplies

Following its exposé on toxic chemicals lurking in popular school supplies, the EcoWaste Coalition requested the Department of Education (DepEd) to push for measures that will purge the market of unsafe children’s products.

In a letter sent today to DepEd, the toxic watchdog exhorted Secretary Armin Luistro to champion the health and welfare of children against products containing lead, a brain poison, and other chemicals of concern.

“Chemicals like lead that can jeopardize the health and future of our children should not be present at all in products that are designed and produced for their consumption,” wrote Manny Calonzo, Steering Committee member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“By pushing for toxic-free children's products, the DepEd, along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), can be a strong driver for industry shift to clean production and therefore clean products,” he told Secretary Luistro.

The group requested DepEd to coordinate with the FDA, the Department of Trade and Industry, the House of Representatives and the Senate for measures that can be pursued to cleanse the market of school supplies and other children's products laced with harmful substances.

“We also request your office to use your persuasive power to encourage manufacturers, importers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers to commit to producing and selling children's products with no harmful chemicals, and to disclosing the chemical ingredients of their goods,” Calonzo added.

Recognizing the role of local authorities in upholding consumer safety, the group urged DepEd "to draw the support of local government units (for) pertinent ordinances and other stringent regulations that will prevent the sale of untested, unlabeled and unsafe children's products in their respective jurisdictions.”

Through their letter, the EcoWaste Coalition formally informed Secretary Luistro about the results of the chemical tests on 25 samples purchased by the group from various retailers of school supplies in Divisoria last July 22, and screened for toxic metals on July 23.

The tests were carried out by visiting American scientist Dr. Joe DiGangi using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, a portable device that is routinely used by regulatory agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

According to the summary of test results, 15 of the 25 samples contained elevated levels of lead from 96 parts per million (ppm) to 14,100 ppm, surpassing the 90 ppm threshold under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

“We find the results deeply disturbing knowing that lead attacks the nervous system, damages the brain and causes mental retardation, learning disorders and lower IQ marks, to cite a few lead-related health effects,” Calonzo said.

In addition to detecting lead and other toxic metals in some of the samples, the EcoWaste Coalition discovered that most of the products they tested were insufficiently labeled, and that not a single item provides information about their chemical ingredients and health effects.

“Inadequate labeling and the absence of chemical facts and figures deprive consumers of vital information to make informed choices,” he pointed out.

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