20 June 2014

Cebu Toy Ukuleles Found Contaminated with Lead

Colorful toy ukuleles being sold at tourist souvenir stores in Cebu City and Lapu City are laden with lead, a highly toxic chemical that is prohibited in the production of toys.

The EcoWaste Coalition,  a toxics watchdog, made the revelation after screening 10 samples of toy ukuleles for lead using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

The samples were purchased last June 14 and 15 for P80 to P150 each from vendors of souvenir items near the Cebu Basilica de Santo NiƱo and at the Lapu Lapu Shrine and subsequently brought to Quezon City for XRF screening.

“Almost one year had gone by since the last screening we conducted and we still find lead in Cebu-made ukuleles,” noted Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

In July 2013, six samples of Cebu ukuleles were found positive for lead up to 13,900 parts per million (ppm), way above the 90 ppm threshold limit for lead in paints and surface coatings under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Out of the 10 samples screened this time, all were found to contain lead in the range of 2,179  ppm to 26,100 ppm that will make them illegal to sell in the US, developed countries and the Philippines.

“We are disappointed to see that ukulele makers have yet to switch despite the commercial availability of lead safe paints in various colors and applications,” Dizon said.

“Toy makers should comply with the government’s regulatory policy on lead that seeks to promote the health and safety of children, workers and the environment at large,” he said.

Lead is strictly prohibited in the manufacturing of toys under the newly-issued Chemical Control Order (CCO) for lead and lead compounds by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

For her part, Moresa Tolibas, EcoWaste Coalition’s Technical Officer for the Lead Paint Elimination Proejct, warned that the “ukulele’s leaded coatings will sooner or later wear out, creating toxic chips and dust that can get into children’s hands and mouths.”

“It’s even possible for a child to bite on the painted surface of the ukulele as she or he play with it and directly ingesting high levels of lead in paints,” she said.

International health experts have determined no safe level of lead in blood, warning that even low doses can bring about irreversible damage to a child’s health.

Considered by the World Health Organization as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern,” childhood lead exposure has been linked to irreversible brain and neurological damage resulting to decreased intelligence, learning difficulties, hearing loss, developmental delays and behavioral problems.

The EcoWaste Coalition promised to conduct sustained market monitoring to check on  business and industry compliance to the DENR’s CCO regulating lead and lead compounds.

In the meantime, the group advised consumers to only patronize properly labelled lead safe paints and products to minimize, if not totally prevent, childhood exposure to lead.

-end-

Reference:

http://www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/lead/en/index.html

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