An environmental watchdog asked vendors to desist from selling a lead-laden brand of water colors as stalls selling school supplies began sprouting in Divisoria, the famous hub for bargain hunters and low budget shoppers.
To fire up its month-long “waste-free, toxic-free back-to-school” campaign starting May 15, the EcoWaste Coalition urged Divisoria’s discount retailers to stop selling “Artex Fine Water Colors” after the group’s AlerToxic Patrol found the product being sold at sidewalk stores in Juan Luna Street and Recto Avenue for P65 to P68 per set.
Laboratory analysis commissioned by the group had confirmed the presence of elevated levels of lead up to 37,000 parts per million (ppm) in Artex Fine Water Colors in downright violation of a government’s regulation aimed at protecting the public from being exposed to lead, a toxic chemical linked to permanent cognitive and behavioral problems.
The Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds promulgated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) strictly prohibits the use of lead in the manufacturing of school supplies, among others.
“This appeal is the opening salvo in our campaign to raise public awareness and action against products and practices that pose health and safety hazards, especially to kids who are set to enter or return to school. Experts have warned that even low levels of lead in blood can result to a child’s decreased intelligence and school performance, as well as aggressive behavior,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“We direct this appeal to the vendors of school supplies after our plea for the local manufacturer of Artex Fine Water Colors to voluntarily recall their lead-tainted product had fallen on deaf ears,” he explained.
“At the same time, we ask the authorities to issue a cease and desist order against the manufacturer to compel it to halt the distribution and sale of the said product and bring about their removal from the market,” he added.
Dizon recalled reaching out to Venus Commercial Co., maker of Artex Fine Water Colors, via letters, phone calls and visit to their office in Malabon City, to request the firm to withdraw its leaded product from the market, switch to non-lead materials and duly mark reformulated products as “non-toxic” and/or “no lead added” to assist consumers in making informed choice.
Lead “is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems,“ as per fact sheet by the World Health Organization (WHO), which categorizes lead as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”
According to WHO, “children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage.”
Based on the examination conducted by SGS (a global testing company) using inductively coupled plasma – atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES/AAS), the three samples of Artex Fine Water Colors submitted by the EcoWaste Coalition for analysis had total lead content of 5,900 ppm, 17,000 ppm and 37,000 ppm on their respective yellow lump.
Armed with the laboratory results, the EcoWaste Coalition duly informed key government agencies such as the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and DENR.
In response to the report filed by the EcoWaste Coalition, the DTI - Bureau of Trade Regulation and Consumer Protection (DTI-BTRCP) contacted other regulatory agencies for appropriate action.
According to the action report submitted by the DOH – Food and Drugs Administration (DOH-FDA) to the DTI-BTRCP, Venus Commercial Co. has “no valid license to operate (LTO) nor has pending application for issuance of LTO.”
With respect to Artex Fine Water Colors, “the product is not registered/notified nor is there pending application for registration/notification,” the DOH-FDA action report said.