EcoWaste Coalition Finds Lead in Children's Lunch Bags

After finding lead in backpacks and reusable water bottles, a toxics watchdog divulged today that it has also detected the chemical poison in school lunch bags.

The EcoWaste Coalition said that its latest round of chemical analysis found lead up to 3,347 parts per million (ppm) in 27 of 35 samples of school bags bought in Manila and screened for heavy metals using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

The items were bought for P30 to P200 each from various stores in Divisoria and Quiapo that offer discounted prices for must-have, back-to-school supplies.

None of the samples had complete product labels that would have informed parents about a bag’s manufacturer, importer or distributor, the materials and chemicals it is made of, and the necessary warnings to ensure consumer health and safety.

“We are disturbed with the levels of lead found in colourfully designed lunch bags that are mainly made of plastic materials,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Lead may rub off the lunch bags and migrate to the food or hands of a child, causing the child to unknowingly ingest lead,” she said.

“We do not want to frighten our parents, but we cannot ignore the likelihood of some migration of lead to the food stored in the leaded lunch bag,” she noted.

“Parents need to be forewarned so they and their kids can take precaution against lead exposure. We owe it to our children to stop all preventable sources of childhood lead exposure,” she emphasized.

Among the samples with lead above the US limit of 90 ppm for lead in paint and surface coatings were:

1. A pink and purple Dora the Explorer lunch bag, 3,347 ppm
2. An orange Angry Birds lunch bag, 2,623 ppm

3. A blue Star lunch bag, 2,092 ppm
4. A yellow Spongebob lunch bag, 1,978 ppm

5. A pink Dora the Explorer lunch bag, 1,854 ppm
6. A yellow big flower lunch bag, 1,816 ppm
7. A yellow small flower lunch bag, 1,455 ppm
8. A yellow Angry Birds lunch bag, 1,453 ppm
9. A yellow Hello Kitty lunch bag, 1,391 ppm

10. A red Angry Birds lunch bag, 1,354 ppm
11. A green Angry Birds lunch bag, 1,296 ppm
12. A black Angry Birds lunch bag, 1,243 ppm
13. A pink and purple Cinnamorol lunch bag, 1,141 ppm
14. A blue Angry Birds lunch bag, 1,068 ppm
15. A light blue Doremon lunch bag, 1,081 ppm

The amounts of lead detected in the samples may not be “very high” to bring about acute lead poisoning, but a leaded lunch bag would certainly add to the health risk, especially if the child is exposed to other lead sources such as chipping leaded paints or products such as toys and school supplies, the group said.

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier revealed that 14 of the 30 reusable water bottles analyzed by the group had lead up to over 100,000 ppm.

Besides reusable water bottles, 23 out of 25 samples of kiddie backpacks were also found to contain lead up to 5,752 ppm.

Citing information from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the EcoWaste Coalition warned that “lead can affect almost every organ and system, and children six years old and younger are most susceptible to the effects of lead.”

According to the EPA, “even very low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in permanent damage to the brain and nervous system, leading to behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, and hearing problems, slowed growth, anemia and, in rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death.”

To prevent lead exposure from lead-containing lunch bags, the EcoWaste Coalition proposes that parents should be :

- be inquisitive, check the product labels and look for chemical safety information
- avoid buying plastic lunch bags unless certified safe from chemicals of concern such as lead, bisphenol A and phthalates
- look for non-vinyl lunch bags such as those made of cloth and native materials
- place food in reusable containers to keep “baon” from touching lunch bags
- regularly clean and wash kids’ lunch bag with soap and warm water to remove dust and toxins.

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.