Mantel, the plastic table cover used in many homes and eateries, contain lead and other health damaging chemicals that are kept secret to consumers.
The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog group, made the disclosure after analyzing 15 samples of mantel bought for P20-P150 each from market vendors in Divisoria, Paco and Quiapo, Manila using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer.
“We tested plastic table covers as part of our campaign to inform consumers about chemicals in products that are enjoying good sales during the holiday shopping season,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“In addition to Noche Buena and Media Noche staples, many consumers buy mantel to replace worn or tattered table covers to add cheer to the holiday meals,” he observed.
“Unknown to many consumers, these common products contain health-damaging chemicals that can build up in our bodies and the environment,” he said.
“Regrettably, none of the samples were duly labeled with facts about their chemical or material content to caution consumers,” he lamented.
Mostly made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, 11 of the mantel analyzed had lead up to ,18,100 parts per million (ppm), while four had cadmium up to 1,298 ppm.
Lead and cadmium are often used as a stabilizer in PVC products, as well as pigment to add color in such products.
Quoting scientific studies, the EcoWaste Coalition warned that “lead impacts brain development, causing learning and developmental problems including decreased IQ scores, shorter attention spans, and delayed learning,” stressing that “scientists have found there is no safe level of lead for children - even the smallest amount effects a child's ability to learn.”
Other chemicals of concern found in the table covers analyzed were antimony, arsenic and chromium.
“As these products are PVC-based, it’s also possible that they contain toxic phthalate plasticizers, which can disrupt normal hormonal processes even at low levels of exposure,” he added.
Dizon identified two main reasons why consumers should be concerned over the presence of these chemicals in plastic table covers:
1. The toxic chemicals from the PVC table covers may leach out over time into the air, contaminate the surroundings and get absorbed into the household dust that vulnerable children may breathe in or ingest.
2. Worn or tattered PVC table covers are often disposed of with regular garbage and either burned or dumped dispersing their toxic ingredients into the environment.
“The burning of PVC in dumps or incinerators results in the emission of toxic fumes laden with byproduct chemical wastes known as dioxins and furans, as well as toxic ashes. Lead, cadmium and other toxicants are also released during the open burning or incineration of the discarded mantel,” Dizon explained.
“Furthermore, the manufacture of PVC products, which involves the use of numerous toxic chemical additives, presents occupational safety and health risks for workers from the production up to the disposal chain,” he emphasized.
As a practical advice, the EcoWaste Coalition suggested the use of cloth or non-PVC table covers as safe alternatives to PVC mantel.
PVC plastic is identifiable with the recycling running arrows with the number 3 or the initials “PVC” and its strong overpowering chemical smell.