After warning consumers about the excessive levels of lead, a highly toxic chemical, in some Christmas lights, the EcoWaste Coalition today advised consumers to watch out for other yuletide decorations with hidden toxins.
The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network promoting zero waste and chemical safety, issued the warning after detecting dangerous levels of toxic metals in 62 out of 80 Christmas decorations using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device.
The assorted samples, costing P15 to P199 each, were obtained last October 25 to 28 from retail shops teeming with budget shoppers at Divisoria and Quiapo, Manila City, Monumento, Caloocan City and Mega-Q-Mart, Quezon City.
Among the samples analyzed by the group were Christmas balls, bells, foliage, garlands, lanterns, trees, trinkets, serving platters and table decorations featuring familiar characters such as Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus.
Lead up to 23,500 parts per million (ppm) was found in 50 samples above the US limit of 90 ppm for lead in paint and surface coatings. The other 12 samples had antimony, arsenic, cadmium or chromium above levels of concern.
Classified by the World Health Organization as one of the ten chemicals of major public health concern, lead is extremely dangerous when ingested or inhaled, especially by babies and young children, and is known to cause irreparable damage to the developing brain.
“Lead is dangerous even at low levels; hence the need to curb all avoidable sources of exposure as much as possible, including lead in paint, dust and soil and, of course, in consumer products,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“Children are most prone to lead exposure because their bodies are still developing and they tend to explore their surroundings by touching, tasting, biting or chewing anything they can get their hands on, including the power cord of Christmas lights and the trimmings and trinkets of a Christmas tree,” he added.
“There is also the risk of lead in lead-containing decorations to come off as the lead painted or glazed surface deteriorates, thus contaminating the ground where children gather and play with lead dust,” he explained.
Health problems associated with lead exposure in children include learning disabilities, speech and language impairment, decreased intelligence, attention deficit disorder, reduced bone and muscle grown and behavioral issues.
Dizon further noted the risk of indoor air pollution from the outgassing of nasty chemicals from plastic-based Christmas decorations, and the occupational hazard routinely faced by workers making or handling such products from the production to the disposal chain.
The EcoWaste Coalition believed that Christmas decorations should be made of natural and non-toxic materials to minimize lead exposure and environmental pollution, especially at home and the workplace.
“Let us keep lead and other toxic chemicals out of our Christmas shopping list towards a safer yuletide celebration for the sake of our children and the environment,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.
The top 20 samples laden with extremely high levels of lead include:
A big yellow star PVC plastic lantern (23,500 ppm)
A medium yellow star PVC plastic lantern with ring (16,100)
A small yellow PVC star plastic lantern (13,600 ppm)
A plate with a Christmas tree design (11,800 ppm)
A multi-purpose “Snowman” ceramic container (11,000 ppm).
A ceramic “Gingerbread House” (9,513 ppm)
A tiny green star PVC plastic lantern (7,868 ppm)
A medium red star PVC plastic lantern (6,943 ppm)
An ornamental house-shaped kettle (6,836 ppm)
A multi-color star PVC plastic lanter (6,614 ppm)
An evergreen garland (6,162 ppm)
A ceramic Christmas ball (5,249 ppm)
A small blue star PVC plastic lantern (5,023)
A decorative plate for display (4,388 ppm)
A Christmas tree-shaped plate (4,200 ppm)
A Santa Claus standing next to a Christmas tree candle set (3,590 ppm)
An elf figure (3,267 ppm)
A “Merry Christmas” trinket (2,833 ppm)
A candle holder with chicken design (2,707 ppm)
A moon-shaped “Santa Claus” trinket (2,404 ppm)