Dangerous Water Color Sets Openly Sold in Cebu City

Some Cebu City retailers are still selling a locally-manufactured water color sets recently banned by the government for containing high levels of lead, a chemical poison that can harm the brain.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog group based in Quezon City, discovered the illegal trade after conducting test buys in 14 retail outlets in Cebu City last Sunday, June 15, 2014 and managing to procure the banned “Artex Fine Water Colors.”

“It’s unlawful to sell these lead-contaminated water colors.  We therefore ask Cebu retailers to remove them from store shelves and return to the manufacturer for environmentally-sound disposal,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“To ensure compliance, we request FDA’s field officers in the province to go store-hopping, confiscate the banned items and charge disobedient businessmen,” she added.

Lucero and the EcoWaste team were in town of late for the “Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project Workshop” held in Lapu-Lapu City (June 9-13) and the “Forum on Lead Paint Hazards and the Benefits of Lead Safe Procurement Policy” in Cebu City (June 16).

On May 29, 2014, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) issued  Advisory No. 2014-044 recalling “Artex Fine Water Colors” after laboratory tests detected lead in excess of the maximum tolerable limit of 90 parts per million (ppm).

The FDA’s action was prompted by a complaint filed last April by the EcoWaste Coalition with the Department of Trade and Industry – Bureau of Trade Regulation and Consumer Protection.

In Cebu City, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol managed to buy the banned water color sets for P40 to P64.95 at Best Buy Mart (Osmena Blvd. cor. P. Gullas St.),  La Nueva Supermart (Briones St.), La Nueva Supermart (Magallanes St) and Prince Hypermart (P. Burgos St.).

On the other hand, no “Artex Fine Water Colors” were found at Fooda Saversmart, Happy Mart, Kaking, King Long, Lucky 7 Supermart, Metro Department Store, National Book Store, Novo Asia Consumer, Unitop and Visayan Educational Supply.

The group had earlier reported  buying the banned school art material in 3 retail shops in Lapu-Lapu City last June 14 for P40 to P59.75, specifically at La Nueva Supermart (De la Cerna St.), Marnikko School and Office Supplies (Martir St.) and Society Store (Stall No. 10) of the Public Market.

Lead is strictly prohibited in the production of school supplies and toys under the “Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds” issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in December 2013.

According to “Childhood Lead Poisoning,” a publication of the World Health Organization (WHO),  “lead exposure has profound and permanent adverse health effects on children,” stressing that “there is no safe level of exposure to lead.”

Delayed mental and physical development, learning difficulties, decreased intelligence, shortened attention span, hearing loss, and behavioural problems are among the major effects of lead exposure.

“The  principal  organs  affected  are  the  central  and  peripheral nervous  system and  the  cardiovascular,  gastrointestinal,  renal, endocrine,  immune  and haematological systems,” the WHO said.

Last June 14, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago filed Proposed Senate Resolution 700 asking “the proper Senate committee to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation,” explaining that “Congress  and  other concerned  agencies  should  ensure  that  school  supplies tainted with  lead  and  other  hazardous  chemicals  do  not  reach  the local  market  through  more vigilant monitoring of commercial activities and  stringent testing of these products.”