“Beauty can be deceiving.”
This saying must have taken its physical form as innocent- and pretty-looking yet dangerous Christmas lights that the environmental watchdog EcoWaste Coalition warned the public against buying and using.
“We are alarmed and therefore warn the public that the Christmas lights we could be beautifying our homes with in time for the Christmas festivity could be laden with harmful elements such as the neurotoxin lead,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
In their press release today, the coalition issued the warning after detecting alarming amounts of lead in 10 of the 15 samples that they screened using the X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer or XRF.
The 10 samples showed levels of lead above the 1,000 parts per million (ppm) limit under the EU Directive on Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS).
According to Dizon, lead levels detected in the 10 positive samples range between 1,181 ppm to 5,264 ppm, which are way above the RoHS limit.
“It’s worrisome that we lack a RoHS-like policy, something that gives unscrupulous manufacturers and businessmen the breathing space to easily amass profit at the expense of the Filipino people’s health and safety,” Dizon stressed.
According to the RoHS Guide, “restricted materials are hazardous to the environment and pollute landfills, and are dangerous in terms of occupational exposure during manufacturing and recycling.”
RoHS restricts the use of 6 materials in electrical and electronic products, by specifying maximum levels for these substances. The restricted materials are cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury, polybrominated biphenyls, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers.
The coalition also noted that 7 of the 15 samples do not bear Import Commodity Compliance Certificate (ICC) stickers for imported lights or the Philippine Standard mark for those manufactured locally, which means that they did not undergo the Department of Trade and Industry protocol for standards before entering the market.
The 15 samples, which were procured from Caloocan City and from Binondo and Tondo in Manila, ranged in price from as low as PhP60.00 up to PhP180.00 when bought.
The 10 samples detected with high lead levels are the following:
- A 2 Way Flashing 100 rice lights with green wiring and packed in green and yellow box had 5,264 ppm of lead.
- A North Star Christmas lights with green wiring and packed in transparent plastic packaging had 4,700 ppm of lead.
- A UL Listed Christmas lights with green wiring and packed in white box had 4,647 ppm of lead.
- An AIO Christmas lights with 12 Star Lights clinging to green wiring and packed in transparent plastic packaging had 3,970 ppm of lead.
- A Yuletide Fantasy Red Bulb Christmas lights with green wiring and packed in yellow box had 3,437 ppm of lead.
- A Mabuhay Star Christmas lights with green wiring and packed in transparent plastic packaging had 3,249 ppm of lead.
- A Multi Function 100 Chasing Rice Lights with green wiring and packed in transparent plastic packaging had 2,970 ppm of lead.
- A Mabuhay Star Christmas lights with 50 LED lights clinging to white wiring and packed in green box had 2,783 ppm of lead.
- A Yuletide Fantasy 100L Steady 100 rice lights with green wiring and packed in blue box had 2,218 ppm of lead.
- An AIO 100L Rice Light Christmas lights with golden yellow wiring and packed in chocolate-brown box had 1,181 ppm of lead.
Consumers should bear in mind that they have the right to know what is in the product that they are buying and should therefore be extra cautious when this information is not available on the packaging, the coalition advised.
Additional hazards that accompany buying cheap and sub-standard Christmas lights include risk of fire, electric shock, mini-explosion, getting burned, and exposure to hazardous substances.
“Bear in mind too that Christmas lights loaded with toxic materials could end up as hazardous wastes that are dumped, burned or improperly recycled, posing as serious health and environmental risks,” EcoWaste Coalition stressed.