30 April 2013

Government, Non-Government and Corporate Donors Urged to Ensure that Gift School Bags Are Lead-Free


A toxics watchdog exhorted local government units (LGUs), non-government organizations and companies that are planning to give bags to less-privileged children in time for the school reopening to get a formal certification from suppliers confirming the safety of their products from lead, a brain-damaging chemical.

“We appeal to generous givers from the public and private sectors to offer bags that have undergone lead safety tests to ensure that their gifts would not expose the recipients to lead,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The LGUs and other bag donors can demand a certification from their suppliers that their bags passed the limit for total lead content as analyzed by qualified government-accredited laboratories prior to procuring and giving away the items,” she said.

“This is one way of ensuring that bag donors do not in any way contribute to childhood lead exposure that may hinder a child’s well-rounded development,” she emphasized.

“As there are other chemicals aside from lead that may adversely affect children’s health, we also suggest that the bags be tested for other priority substances such as phthalates, which are commonly used as plasticizers in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic,” she added.  Phthalates are known endocrine disrupting chemicals.

Lucero’s appeal came in the aftermath of her group’s recent investigation that detected lead up to 5,752 parts per million (ppm) in 23 out of 25 kiddie backpacks, way above the 90 ppm limit in US for lead in paint and surface coatings.

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, EcoWaste researchers discovered excessive amounts of lead on the painted portions of some plastic backpacks, particularly on the designs, logos and the main materials of which the bags are made of.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, lead exposure can retard the development of a child’s developing central nervous system and permanently damage the brain even at low levels of exposure, stressing that the effects are not immediately observed and that there are no obvious symptoms until the blood lead level is very high.

Health studies have shown that childhood lead exposure can result to a broad range of serious developmental and behavioral problems, including reading and learning disabilities, inattentiveness, hyperactivity and irritability, lower IQ and poor school performance.

Lead can enter a human body mainly through the inhalation or ingestion of lead particles or dust from chipping or flaking paints in homes, playgrounds, schools and other facilities, as well as from lead-containing products such as toys and other children’s articles.

In his letter to the EcoWaste Coalition in 2011, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that “clinical toxicologists have indicated that there are no safe levels for lead exposure among children.”

“This fact make banning of substances containing lead an imperative,” he 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.

-end-



28 April 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Finds Brain-Harming Poison in Kiddie Bags


Parents beware: some kiddie backpacks are laden with brain-damaging chemical associated with lower intelligence quotient (IQ) score.

The EcoWaste Coaliton, a toxics watchdog, made the warning as bags and other back-to-school necessities come into sight in Divisoria, the nation’s bargain shopping hub.

As part of its series of product sampling ahead of the reopening of school classes, the group bought 25 samples of bags, costing P50 to P280 each and with colors and images appealing to children, from bargain stores and sidewalk vendors in Juan Luna St. and Recto Ave. in Divisoria and Rizal Ave. in Sta. Cruz, Manila

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, EcoWaste researchers screened the samples for lead, a potent brain and nervous system poison, and other chemicals linked to serious health and environmental problems.

In the absence of a specific standard for lead in children’s bags, the EcoWaste Coalition used as reference the 90 parts per million (ppm) limit for lead in consumer paints and surface coatings under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Out of 25 samples, 23 (92%) were found to contain lead up to 5,752 ppm in excess of the 90 ppm threshold. None of the samples had proper product labels.

“Parents should not only be worried with overloaded school bags that can cause back pain and deformities,” stated Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Parents should be concerned as well with toxins prowling in those bags that can impair brain development, causing shorter attention span, learning disabilities and decrease in IQ score,” she suggested.

The “Risk Management Strategy for Lead” published by Health Canada in February 2013 said that “research suggests that an incremental increase in blood lead levels of 1 microgram per deciliter is associated with approximately a one IQ point deficit,” the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.

The European Food Safety Authority, US Environmental Protection Authority, World Health Organization (WHO) and other health and science bodies have not identified a safe level of exposure to lead below which no adverse health effects can be observed, the EcoWaste Coalition noted.

According to WHO, “the potential for adverse effects of lead exposure is greater for children than for adults, because in children 1) the intake of lead per unit body weight is higher, 2) more dust may be ingested, 3) lead absorption in the gastrointestinal tract is higher, 4) the blood–brain barrier is not yet fully developed and 5) neurological effects occur at lower levels than in adults.”

“This is why it is crucial to get rid of childhood lead exposure at its source such as lead-added paints, lead-containing consumer products, and lead-contaminated dust and waste,” Lucero added.

“This is why lawmakers and regulators need to act fast to ban lead in paints and products, particularly those designed for children’s use such as kiddie bag and other school supplies,” she said.

The main routes of exposure to lead are through ingestion, inhalation and, in minimal cases, via dermal contact or skin absorption.

Based on the chemical analysis conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition, the following kiddie bags registered with lead over 1,000 ppm:

1.   Superman 5,752 ppm
2.   Dragon Ball Z, 4,156 ppm
3.   Ben 10, 3,536 ppm
4.   Superman, 3,317 ppm
5.   One Piece, 2,660 ppm
6.   SpongeBob SquarePants, 2,565 ppm
7.   Slam Dunk, 2,233 ppm
8.   Superman, 2,127 ppm
9.   SpongeBob SquarePants, 1,830 ppm
10. Ben 10, 1,595 ppm
11. Princess, 1,464 ppm
12. Iron Man, 1,254 ppm
13. Avengers, 1,102 ppm

To minimize exposure to lead in school bags and related articles, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends that parents:

1. Avoid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic bags as their materials may contain lead used as stabilizer, as well as phthalates used as plasticizers.  Lead and phthalates are listed among endocrine disrupting chemicals, or chemicals that may interfere with the production or activity on hormones in the human endocrine system.

2  Avoid bags painted with colorful designs unless labelled and certified safe from lead paint.

3.  Avoid school bags that have strong chemical smells, indicating the use of paints with high levels of volatile organic compounds.

4.  Avoid  products with “cracked” painted design as it could easily chip off  under normal use, potentially spreading lead-containing paint flakes and dust.

5. Avoid products lacking essential product information such as the manufacturer’s or distributor’s contact information in case you need to make an inquiry or complaint.

6.  Ask for receipts in case you need to return the items you bought if they are found to be defective, substandard or unsafe.
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.

-end-
 
 

Groups Push for Workers' Protection against Occupational Diseases

The Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) and the EcoWaste Coalition today appealed for concerted action that will protect the nation’s workforce against occupational diseases.

In a joint statement to mark the “World Day for Safety and Health at Work,” the groups echoed the call by the International Labour Organization (ILO) for a holistic prevention-focused action to address the growing burden of occupational diseases.

According to the ILO, some 2.34 million people die each year from work-related accidents and diseases of which an estimated 2.02 million people die from a wide range of work-related diseases.

“Our workers need not suffer from occupational diseases as they toil in construction sites, factories, landfills, farms, mines and other work places.  There must be an effective way to prevent work-related ailments and deaths that will uphold the workers’ health rights, especially for those employed in hazardous jobs,” said Josua Mata, Secretary-General of APL. 

“With the participation of the workers and their unions, the cooperation of the employers and the genuine enforcement of labor laws and standards, we’ll prevail over old and new occupational health maladies,” he added.

Gie Relova, Secretary-General of BMP for the National Capital Region, said that “occupational diseases pose a real burden for workers and their families many of whom are already having troubles in making both ends meet.”

“The government should institute effective programs that will tackle the root causes of such diseases and provide workers with accessible and adequate support.  Protecting workers’ health against occupational diseases is our collective responsibility,” he said.

Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect, warned that “if we do not act with urgency and resolve, workers who are engaged in dangerous jobs and exposed to harmful chemical substances might end up joining the global estimate of 5,500 deaths daily due to occupational diseases.”

“We ask the government to generate and disclose data on occupational diseases, including sex-disaggregated data, to help our society fully understand the problem and the steps needed to prevent them,” he suggested.

“As a group advocating for zero waste and chemical safety, we want our workers protected from all hazards that can ruin their health, productivity and future,” he emphasized.

The ILO report, “The Prevention of Occupational Diseases,” pointed out that over two million workers die yearly, or an average of 5,500 deaths daily, due to work-related diseases. The ILO also estimates that 160 million cases of non-fatal work-related diseases occur annually.

The ILO warned that millions of workers continue to be at risk of pneumoconioses due to
exposure to silica, coal, asbestos and that their associated illnesses (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, TB, cancer) often cause disability and death. Asbestos-related diseases include asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma.

The ILO also noted that new forms of occupational diseases such as musculoskeletal and
mental health disorders  are increasing without adequate preventive, protective and control measures.

ILO is calling for a comprehensive “paradigm of prevention” that focuses on occupational diseases and not only on injuries.

“This new paradigm must underscore a set of principles: that just because the problem is difficult to tackle, it cannot be ignored; that the recognition, prevention and treatment of occupational diseases as well as the improvement of recording and notification systems must be high priorities; that enhancing national safety and health programmes is essential to the health of both individuals and the societies they live in,” the ILO explained.
-end-
Reference:

http://www.ilo.org/safework/events/safeday/WCMS_204594/lang--en/index.htm
www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed.../wcms_208226.pdf

24 April 2013

NGOs Urge FDA to Impose a Ban on Chemical Bisphenol A (BPA)




Over 50 health and environmental groups today asked the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) to take action that will protect babies from an endocrine disrupting chemical called Bisphenol A or BPA.

In a letter sent to Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go, Director of the FDA, the groups urged the agency to ban the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of children’s food and beverage containers such as baby bottles and feeding cups containing BPA.

BPA, a chemical used to manufacture hard polycarbonate plastic containers, is widely used in clear plastic bottles and in food-can liners. 

Studies have linked BPA to numerous health concerns such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, coronary heart disease, obesity, Type II diabetes, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and reproductive abnormalities, the groups pointed out.

The requested action by the FDA will put the Philippines in the same league with countries that have banned BPA in baby bottles such as Canada (2008), France (2010), the 27 member states of European Union (2011), China (2011), USA (2012) and Taiwan (2013), the groups noted.

Not content with only banning BPA in baby bottles, the groups cited the “French example,” which prohibits the use of BPA in all food contact materials. 

By 2015, France will prohibit “the manufacture, import, export and commercialization of all forms of food packaging containing BPA,” the groups said.

“An immediate ban on BPA in baby bottles and a phase-out plan for its use in all food contact materials, in line with the precautionary principle, will reduce children’s exposure to BPA in the food supply,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Banning it will also serve as a deterrent against dumping of BPA-laden baby bottles from overseas into our ports and markets,” she added.

“Strict labeling requirements should also be enforced so that consumers will have an easy and reliable way of knowing if a product is BPA-free or not,” she said.

In test buys conducted in Divisoria last Sunday, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol bought 10 pieces of baby feeding bottles and none of the samples provided information about their BPA content.

The 15th Congress has taken notice of the issue with some legislative measures filed, noted the groups. 

Sen. Lito Lapid and Rep.Mitch Cajayon filed the “Bisphenol A Ban Act,” while Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago authored the “BPA in Baby Products Prohibition Act.”

Sen. Santiago’s proposed  bill will ban BPA in “any reusable baby food or beverage container or any infant formula or baby food stored in a plastic container, can or jar.”

To ensure that the BPA replacement will not pose a health risk, Santiago’s bill also requires that “manufacturers shall not replace BPA with substances that are known carcinogens, those that have carcinogenic potentials, likely carcinogens, known to be human carcinogens, likely to be human carcinogens, or suggestive of  being carcinogens, and those with reproductive toxicants.”

In June 2011, the American Medical Association (AMA), the largest physician group in US, voted to adopt a new policy “recognizing BPA as an endocrine-disrupting agent.”

The AMA said that BPA-containing products with the potential for human exposure should be clearly identified, and that it supports the industry initiatives to stop the manufacturing of BPA-containing baby bottles and feeding cups and the ban on their sale.

Among the groups that sought FDA’s policy action against BPA were the EcoWaste Coalition, Arugaan-Save the Babies Coalition, Consumer Rights for Safe Food, Greenpeace, partylist group “Ang NARS”, Philippine Medical Association, Philippines for Natural Farming, Inc.,  Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology and the group Upholding Life and Nature.
-end-

23 April 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Bats for Stricter Implementation of R.A. 9003 in Light of the Recent Tragedy in a Sanitary Landfill in Rizal

The collapse of the Rizal Provincial Sanitary Landfill that feared to have buried four employees prompted the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, to press for stricter implementation of R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste management Act, particularly waste prevention and reduction, and ensuring the safety of operation of sanitary landfills.

Last Friday, April 19, an estimated 300,000 metric tons of trash reportedly collapsed from the 5-month inactive portion of the landfill that buried backhoe operator Gary Balahibo and maintenance personnel Pablito Esto, Rovidico Olog, and Eddie Malano.

“This is not the first time that it happened when a portion of the border wall of the same landfill collapsed amid incessant rains and sent trash cascading down the nearby creek in 2009,” said Commissioner Romeo Hidalgo, NGO Representative, National Solid Waste Management Commission and Co-Chair of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force Dumps and Incinerators.

“As the country commemorates Earth Day yesterday, and while the families grieve for the tragic incident that involved their loved ones, we urge the local government units (LGUs) and landfill operators to learn from this latest garbage disaster in order to avoid similar incidents from happening over and over again,” Comm. Hidalgo added.

How many lives need to perish before we learn and act towards ending our wasteful habits and indiscriminate treatment of the environment?

“We therefore urge concerned LGUs and national government agencies (NGAs) to carry out robust landfill inspections making sure that operators strictly adhere to the health and safety procedures and site criteria requirements in establishing sanitary landfills,” Hidalgo stated.

Fierce weather disturbances and other factors are no longer enough reasons to justify garbage erosion incidents that risk many lives. People need to put an end on this by taking responsibility to the garbage they produce, and by preventing the creation of waste at the onset.

Sound waste management practices such as waste segregation, reuse and recycling, composting, cleaning the production process of materials through the removal of toxic chemicals, avoiding excessive use of packaging materials, and implementing take back mechanisms, need to be inculcated in the minds of both manufacturers and consumers.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition commends and supports the action of the Office of The Environmental Ombudsman (OEO) together with the NGAs, LGUs and non-government organizations (NGOs) as they launch the Solid Waste Management Compliance Program yesterday to celebrate Earth Day.

According to the OEO, this partnership between the government and civic groups seeks to inform the public on the critical need of implementing the provisions of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (R.A. 9003) and hold concerned government officials and personnel accountable for the effective implementation of the aforementioned law.

“We support this undertaking spearheaded by the OEO to conduct an assessment of various NGAs and LGUs with regards to their environmental compliance with R.A. 9003,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“It is already 13 years since the enactment of this law and until now, it has not been fully implemented yet. It is high time that we address the government’s feeble implementation of the law on a national scale,” Lucero said.

Lucero added that “the recent tragedy in a sanitary landfill in the province of Rizal could have been prevented had the government instituted such reforms much earlier.”

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.

-end-

21 April 2013

Manila Stores Disobey Ban on Mercury-Laced Cosmetics (Poll Bets Urged to Take Action vs. Illegal Cosmetics Trade)




Banned products still on sale (above), laden with mercury but not yet banned (below)

Skin whitening products banned by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) for containing excessive amounts of mercury that pose health risk to  consumers and the environment, are still being sold by defiant vendors in Manila, a toxics watchdog reported on the eve of Earth Day.

In test buys conducted on April 19 and 20, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol purchased a total of 21 skin whitening creams, including 14 banned products, from 12 stores selling Chinese medicines and cosmetics in Divisoria, Sta. Cruz and Quiapo.

Topping the list of products with sky-high level of mercury was a Beauty Girl Green Cucumber 6 Days Double Whitening Soft Essence Cream, with 50,600 parts per million (ppm) of mercury, way above the allowable limit of 1 ppm under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive. 

“Dangerous cosmetics loaded with mercury are sold with impunity despite repeated health warnings by the authorities,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“This is very bad for our people’s health, and for the environment since mercury in cosmetics is discharged into wastewater that ultimately goes into storm drains, rivers and seas,” she added.

The 14 banned items still on sale for P15- P150 each were the Natural Orange Whitening and Anti-Aging Package and Yoko Whitening Cream with SPF-15 banned last March 14, 2013; Aichun Pawpaw Fade Out Cream, Bai Li Tou Hong Cream , Special Cream (1 Jar) and Special Cream (2 Jar-Set) banned in 2012;  Aichun Beauty (with Green Tea Essence) Cream, Aichun Beauty Green Tea Whitening Speckle Removing Series Cream,  Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream  (2 types), and Yoko Gentleman Cream banned in 2011
; and Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, Jiaoli 7-Days Eliminating Freckle AB Set and S’Zitang banned since 2010.

The EcoWaste Coalition also obtained seven products, sold from P110-P320 each, that tested positive for mercury in subsequent analysis.  The seven products are not yet on the FDA’s list of 77 banned skin whitening cosmetics.

These seven products were the
Beauty Girl Green Cucumber 6 Days Double Whitening Soft Essence Cream; Gakadi; Hengxueqian Whitening Set; White Advance Hydroxytyrosol L-Glutathione Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream; Yudantang Ginseng and Green Cucumber 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence; Yudantang 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence (with pictures of a cow and papaya); and one product labelled in Chinese characters (with red flower and green leaves).


With X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, the EcoWaste Coalition analyzed the products and found enormous quantities of mercury with the following as the “top 10” in terms of mercury content:

1.   Beauty Girl Green Cucumber 6 Days Double Whitening Soft Essence Cream, with 50,600 ppm;
2.  Yudantang Ginseng and Green Cucumber 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence, with 44,800 ppm;
3.   Hengxueqian Whitening Set, with 19,100 ppm;
4.   Natural Orange Whitening and Anti-Aging Package, with 15,400 ppm
5.   Yudantang 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence (with pictures of a cow and papaya),  with 11,000 ppm;
6.   Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, with 5,513 ppm;
7.  White Advance Hydroxytyrosol L-Glutathione Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream, with 4,977 ppm;
8.   Bai Lo Tou Hong Cream, with 4,887 ppm;
9.   Jiaoli 7-Days Eliminating Freckle AB Se, with 3,933 ppm; and
10. S’Zitang, with 3,790 ppm.

“The electorate should ask candidates to take cognizance of the problem and act to combat this illegal trade that is making Manila the ‘cosmetoxic’ capital of the country,” she emphasized.  “Cosmetoxic” is a term coined by the EcoWaste Coalition to draw attention to the proliferation of cosmetics laced with harmful substances in the market.

Politicians vying for Manila City Council seats, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out, should throw their support behind a proposed ordinance filed in 2012 that could have contained, if not crushed, the illegal trade of “cosmetoxic” in the city.  The ordinance would have prohibited:

"a.  The manufacture, importation, marketing and promotion, distribution and sale of cosmetics with mercury in excess of 1 ppm as set by the FDA."
"b.  The sale, wholesale or retail, of cosmetics that have not been authorized by the FDA as required by R.A. 9711."
"c.  The sale, wholesale or retail, of cosmetics that have not complied with the labeling requirements implemented by the FDA."
“d.  The open dumping, open burning and/or disposal of banned, recalled and/or confiscated mercury-containing cosmetics in regular municipal solid waste.”

As proposed, “any violation of the ordinance shall be a basis for the suspension of the business license or permit for a period of not more than fifteen (15) days for the first violation; thirty (30) days for the second violation, and the revocation thereof for the third and subsequent violations,” and the imposition of severe penalties under R.A. 9711, or the Food and Drugs Administration Act.

According to the World Health Organization, “the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening creams is kidney damage.”

“Mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.  Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy,” it added.

To avoid exposure to mercury in cosmetics, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends the following:  

1.  Read the product label; reject products that do not list their ingredients; say no to products with incomplete information or with labels written in a language that you cannot understand.

2.  If you are already using a skin whitening product containing mercury, stop using it and consult a doctor at once.

3.  Dispose of mercury-containing products responsibly: do not mix it with other trash; do not burn as mercury will vaporize and contaminate the air.

4.  Contact the FDA through their hotlines 8571900 and 165332 for information and advice.

-end-

Reference:

www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/mercury_flyer.pdf

Note:  The draft
ORDINANCE TO STOP THE ILLEGAL SALE OF INJURIOUS MERCURY-CONTAINING COSMETICS AND ALL OTHER UNREGISTERED AND UNLABELED OR MISLABELED COSMETICS IN THE CITY OF MANILA” was filed by District II Councilor Numero Lim in March 2012.



14 April 2013

Watchdog Finds Mercury in Crayons and Pencils, Pushes Stricter Limit for Mercury in Children's Products


All children should be able to draw and write without being exposed to the hazards of mercury, an extremely toxic element, in crayons and pencils.
 
The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, emphasized the right of every child to safe drawing and writing materials following an investigation it initiated that found mercury in dozens of crayon and pencil products bought mainly from Divisoria, the budget shopping paradise.
 
Of the 22 samples of crayon sets, 18 were found to exceed the allowable limit of 20 parts per million (ppm) under the Philippine National Standards (PNS) for Safety of Toys, the group reported.  Mercury up to 307 ppm was particularly found in purple or violet crayons.
 
Traces of mercury were also detected in 38 of the 44 pencil samples.  While not exceeding the PNS, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that the amounts of mercury, particularly in the ferrules that kids often bite, were above the regulatory limits for mercury in fish (0.5 ppm) and in cosmetics (1 ppm).
 
“We find it disturbing that mercury, a potent neurotoxin, is present in crayons and pencils that children often put in their mouths, a most prevalent route for mercury intake,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
 
“Some may say that the amounts of mercury we found in the samples are miniscule, but we must not forget that no level of mercury is safe, especially for children whose developing brains and other vital organs are most vulnerable to the toxic effects of mercury,” she said.
 
Mercury tends to accumulate in the food chain and the human body, mainly in the brain, liver and kidneys, via ingestion, inhalation or skin absorption, Lucero explained.
 
“All products meant for use in learning or playing by children should be entirely safe from mercury and other hazards. It is important to eradicate all contributors to childhood exposure to mercury,” she emphasized.
 
The discovery of mercury in  crayons and pencils (albeit at low levels) prompted the group to push for a stricter limit to minimize children’s exposure to mercury due to their frequent hand-to-mouth activities.
 
Jeiel Guarino, in-house chemist of the EcoWaste Coalition said  that “regulators should consider revising the current threshold for mercury in toys and related children’s products, which is too weak to adequately protect the health of the Filipino child.”
 
“Children often bite into and chew on toys and related products such as crayons and pencils, so  mercury as an additive or an impurity should not be present at all in articles that may get into their hands and mouths,” he said.
 
“While there really is no safe threshold, using the 0.5 ppm limit for mercury in fish or the 1 ppm limit for mercury in cosmetics, rather than 20 ppm, will be a more child-friendly option,” he  said.
 
If either the said 0.5 ppm or 1 ppm limit is applied, 18 of the crayons and 38 of the pencils screened by the EcoWaste Coalition would have hugely exceeded such a ceiling.

TIPS TO AVOID MERCURY EXPOSURE:

To prevent and reduce children’s exposure to mercury via school supplies, the EcoWaste Coalition advises parents and teachers:
 
- to supervise kids as they use their crayons and pencils;
- to constantly remind them  not to bite or chew on their drawing and writing tools; and
- to wash their hands after drawing or writing activities, especially before eating.
 
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON CRAYONS ANALYZED:
 
Out of 22 crayon sets, 18 were found to be contaminated with mercury in the range of 22 to 307 ppm.
 
7 of the 22 samples had the “non-toxic” mark as required by the Department of Trade and Industry, and 3 of the 7 “non-toxic” crayons had 22, 28 and 251 ppm of mercury, indicating that not all “non-toxic” claims should be taken at face value.
 
Except for 1 product, all the mercury-positive crayon samples failed to provide complete information about their manufacturers or distributors and their contact details in violation of product labeling requirements.
 
Among the crayons with the most mercury were:
 
a. 12-piece “Mingda Colorful Crayons” with 307 ppm of mercury.
 
b. Nine samples of 8-piece “Jumbo Wax Crayons” featuring famous cartoon figures (Angry Birds, Barbie, Hello Kitty, Spongebob Squarepants, Spiderman, Thomas and Friends, Toy Story and Transformers) with mercury between 250 to 292 ppm.
 
The crayon samples were obtained from 7 stores mostly located at New Divisoria Mall, 1188 Mall and 168 Mall, all in Divisoria, Manila.
 
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON PENCILS ANALYZED:
 
Out of 44 pencil samples, 38 were found to contain traces of mercury from 6 to 16 ppm.  Mercury was specifically detected in the ferrules, or the metal ring that holds the eraser.
 
Low levels of lead were also found in half of the samples, but lead above the US limit of 90 ppm was found in a “Made in China 6181 HB”pencil (324 ppm at the pencil’s body) and “Goliath 908 HB” (340 ppm at pencil’s ferrule).
 
The pencils were procured from stationery shops in Juan Luna St. New Divisoria Mall and Tutuban Mall in Divisoria and from major school supplies stores in Quiapo and Sta. Cruz.
 
-end-

10 April 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Cautions Food Vendors and Consumers against Lead-Tainted Paint Brushes

Quezon City.  A toxics watchdog has cautioned vendors and consumers against the use of paint brushes for basting meat while barbecuing and for other food applications.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Food Safety made the warning after a chemical analysis of 25 paint brushes bought from small and big hardware stores showed elevated levels of lead in 22 of the samples.

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the EcoWaste Coalition detected  lead up to 17,400 parts per million (ppm) on the painted wooden handles of the 22 paint brushes, way above the US safety standard of 90 ppm for lead in paint.

Subsequent market investigation by the group’s AlerToxic Patrol revealed that paint brushes are also being used in several food applications, prompting the group to make the warning.

“Our investigation shows that paint brushes are often used as basting brushes to a variety of street food such as pork and chicken barbecue, boiled corn on the cob, hotcake and native bibingka,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Paint brushes, especially those with handles coated in leaded paint, are not food-safe and should not be used for basting or greasing food,” he pointed out.

“The leaded paint will, sooner or later, chip off and get mixed with the basting sauce or with the butter or margarine and that’s not good for health,” he explained.

Toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center agrees, saying that “strictly speaking, paint brushes are not meant to be in contact with food.”

“As a precaution against potential contamination, food preparers and sellers should use suitable food contact materials that are clean, hygienic and free of lead and other toxins,” said Antonio, who is also the Vice-President of the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology.

The EcoWaste Coalition bought the paint brushes, representing 14 brands costing P12 to P102 each, from 12 hardware and home improvement stores at the Araneta Commercial Center and adjacent places in Cubao, Quezon City.

Only 3 paint brushes (Hi Tech with black plastic handle, Mansion with wooden handle in natural varnish and Stanley with wooden handle in brown varnish) had low or non-detectable levels of lead.

The top 10 samples that registered with the highest levels of lead at their yellow painted handles were Hi Tech (3”), 17,400 ppm; Lotus (2.5”), 16,500 ppm; Camel (2”), 12,800 ppm; Panclub (1 ½), 12,700 ppm; Lotus (1”), 12,600 ppm; Croco (2”), 10,800 ppm; no brand name (3”), 9214 ppm; Camel (3/4”), 8,931 ppm; Butterfly (2”), 6,181 ppm; and Lotus (1”, brown handle), 5,027 ppm.

Also, traces of arsenic (highest: 2,104 ppm), chromium (highest: 11,200 ppm) and mercury (highest: 81 ppm) were found in most of the samples.

None of the samples had precautionary labels to notify consumers about lead and other chemicals of concern on the paint brushes, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

According to the group, information on chemicals in a product with matching precautionary warning is essential to guide consumers in making informed choices and in preventing risks of exposure for users and non-users alike.

In separate letters to the hardware store chains, the EcoWaste Coalition suggested that they either voluntarily remove the leaded paint brushes off the shelves or post a visible warning that will inform consumers about the lead content of such articles.

The hardware stores were also urged to require their paint brush suppliers to manufacture lead-free, non-toxic brushes.

The EcoWaste Coalition further suggested that hardware stores should provide a warning sign next to the leaded paint brushes that says “not safe for basting food” – or its equivalent in local language – to prevent contamination during food preparation.

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.

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09 April 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Detects High Levels of Lead on Paint Brushes (Leaded Paint Brushes Not Food-Safe for Basting BBQ)




A toxics watchdog has detected lead, a developmental and reproductive toxin, in paint brushes at levels violating safety standard in the United States

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the EcoWaste Coalition found lead up to 17,400 parts per million (ppm) on the painted wooden handles of 22 out of 25 brushes, way above the allowable limit of 90 ppm for lead in paint in US.

“None of the samples had precautionary labels to notify consumers about lead and other chemicals of concern on the paint brushes,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Consumers, especially the health and safety conscious ones with strong preference for paints with no lead additives, will be upset to buy and use leaded paint brushes without their knowledge.  It’s unacceptable to keep customers in the dark on matters affecting their well-being,” he said.

According to the group, information on chemicals in a product with matching precautionary warning will guide consumers in making informed choices and in preventing risks of exposure for users and non-users alike.

“Also, since paint brushes are often used as basting brushes, especially by street vendors selling barbecued meats,  sellers and buyers should know that leaded brushes are not food-safe and should not be used for basting food,” Dizon added.


The 25 paint brushes, representing 14 brands with prices ranging from P12 to P102, were obtained from 12 hardware and home improvement stores at the Araneta Commercial Center and adjacent places in Cubao, Quezon City.

Only 3 paint brushes (Hi Tech with black plastic handle, Mansion with wooden handle in natural varnish and Stanley with wooden handle in brown varnish) had low or non-detectable levels of lead (see photo below).

The top 10 samples that registered with the highest levels of lead at their yellow painted handles were Hi Tech (3”), 17,400 ppm; Lotus (2.5”), 16,500 ppm; Camel (2”), 12,800 ppm; Panclub (1 ½), 12,700 ppm; Lotus (1”), 12,600 ppm; Croco (2”), 10,800 ppm; no brand name (3”), 9214 ppm; Camel (3/4”), 8,931 ppm; Butterfly (2”), 6,181 ppm; and Lotus (1”, brown handle), 5,027 ppm.

Traces of arsenic (highest: 2,104 ppm), chromium (highest: 11,200 ppm) and mercury (highest: 81 ppm) were also detected in most of the samples.

The EcoWaste Coalition had already notified the major hardware store chains about their findings.

In separate letters to the stores, the EcoWaste Coalition suggested that they either voluntarily remove the leaded paint brushes off the shelves or post a visible warning that will inform consumers about the lead content of such articles.

The hardware stores were also urged to require their paint brush suppliers to manufacture lead-free, non-toxic brushes.

Additionally, hardware stores should provide a warning sign next to the leaded paint brushes that says “not fit for basting food” - or its equivalent in local language - to prevent contamination during food preparation, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of over 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.
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