Kids' Plastic Slippers Found Laced with Toxic Lead

 Rubber slippers with no detectable level of lead and other toxic metals.
PVC plastic slippers with lead and other heavy metals above levels of concern.
A brain-damaging chemical which has no place in children’s products was detected in 18 polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic slippers sold by discount shops and sidewalk vendors in the city of Manila.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Chemical Safety made the disclosure after subjecting 25 pairs of mostly unlabelled plastic and rubber slippers to a chemical analysis using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

The samples, mostly featuring popular cartoon characters such as Ben 10, Snow White and Spiderman, were bought on March 7-9 for P20 to P65 each from informal vendors plying their trade at Lacson Underpass in Quiapo, Rizal Ave. in Sta. Cruz, Recto Ave. in Divisoria, M. Roxas St. in Sta. Ana, and Pedro Gil St. in Ermita.

Out of the 25 samples, 18 (72 %) showed high levels of lead exceeding the 90 parts per million (ppm) limit set by the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).

As per CPSIA, children’s products that are designed or intended primarily for use by children 12 years of age or younger, must not contain a concentration of lead greater than 90 ppm in paint or any similar surface coatings.

“The bad news is all the plastic slippers we tested had lead ranging from 542 to 2,391 ppm, which could come from the lead additive in the paint coatings and the lead stabilizer in PVC,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

All the lead-laden samples were made of PVC plastic, which contains loads of synthetic ingredients, including known endocrine disrupting chemicals, that can disperse or leach out of the material and pose risks to human health and the environment.

“Lead and other toxic ingredients in slippers can spread out into the surroundings as a result of normal wear and tear from their daily use and gets on children’s hands through the house dust and eventually into their mouths, adding to childhood exposure to lead,” he explained.

“Also, all of these leaded-slippers contain one or more toxic chemicals, including antimony, arsenic, cadmium and chromium, above levels of concern,” he said.

“The good news is the rubber slippers we tested, which are equally affordable, attractive and colorful, had no detectable level of lead and other heavy metals, indicating that slippers could be made without using these toxic chemicals,”he added.

Dizon clarified that the XRF is not able to analyze other substances of concern in plastic and rubber slippers such as azo dyes, phthalates, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and tin organic compounds.

Based on the investigation conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition, PVC plastic slippers would generally have a glossy coating, a coarse surface, a firmer sole, a strong chemical smell and would be a bit heavier.

Rubber slippers, on the other hand, would usually have less gleaming design, a smoother surface, a softer touch, a rubbery smell and a lighter weight.

Quoting a global study on plastic shoes by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation of which it took part, the EcoWaste Coalition said that “lead is one of the worst environmental toxins and can accumulate in the body, primarily in the skeleton where it can damage the bone marrow and impair the body’s formation of red blood cells.”

The study said that “lead affects neurological functions that can be measured in the form of declining intelligence.”

According to the study, EU classifies lead compounds as “hazardous when inhaled or consumed” and states that they “can accumulate in the body and cause damage,” “harm the unborn child” and be a “possible cause of impaired fertility.”
Lead and lead compounds are highly toxic to aquatic organisms, the report said.
The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.




Slippers are convenient, feet go in and out within seconds. Indoor slip-on shoes are light, and you can stack them in a suitcase. But this doesn’t make them the healthiest form of footwear. Their shape is not supportive and the materials they are made of are not reinforced.