As school kids and parents get ready for the opening of the school year next month, school supplies have started to sell like hotcakes.
However, toxics watchdog EcoWaste Coalition quickly warned the public against some school supplies found by the group to contain hazardous substances, specifically lead, a known neurotoxin, meaning it damages the brain.
“We are worried that while we send our kids to school, obviously for their brain development, some of the things that they bring and use in school are maybe damaging their brain and posing other health hazards instead,” cried Thony Dizon, Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT.
According to the World Health Organization, “the most critical consequence of low level lead toxicity in utero and during childhood is damage to the developing brain and nervous system.”
“The consequences of brain injury from exposure to lead in early life are loss of intelligence, shortening of attention span and disruption of behavior,” the WHO said.
As part of its annual back-to-school campaign, the EcoWaste Coalition screened 80 samples of assorted school supplies randomly purchased from May 8 to 11, for Ph10 to Ph 320 each, from Lucky Chinatown Mall, Tutuban Centermall, 168 Mall, 999 Mall, 11/88 Mall, and from ambulant vendors around Divisoria.
The group screened the samples for toxic metals using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.
Out of the 80 samples, 49 items were found to contain toxic lead, which is banned in the manufacturing of school supplies under the DENR Administrative Order 2013-24, also known as the “Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.”
Enumerated below are the most toxic samples in terms of lead content per category of school supplies as reported by the EcoWaste Coalition
1. Artex water color set with the yellow cake containing 58,000 ppm of lead
2. High grade 0.5 liter vacuum flask whose yellow exterior paint coating has 43,000 ppm of lead
3. A big clip bookmark with a plastic chick design with 9,612 ppm of lead
4. Ronron backpack with 5,282 parts per million (ppm) of lead
5. A yellow cord plastic holder with 3,052 ppm of lead
The group clarified that the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) prohibits lead greater than 90 ppm in paint or any similar surface coatings of children’s products, and further sets a limit of 100 ppm of total lead content in any accessible component part of a children's product.
“What worries us the most is that these school supplies laden with lead are readily available in the market, not even bearing any information to warn consumers as to their contents,” he stressed.
The group also noted that samples found positive for toxic substances were mostly made from polyvinyl chloride or PVC, a type of plastic that is highly problematic from production to disposal to their many toxic additives.
To protect public health and even the environment, the EcoWaste Coalition gave the following advice to all concerned:
To consumers: a) Insist on your right to information. Look for and read the label carefully and be inquisitive; b) Avoid PVC school supplies that may contain toxic additives such as lead, cadmium, and phthalates; c) Refrain from buying products with strong chemical smell and with painted parts or designs that could later chip off; and d) Ask for receipt or any proof of purchase.
To sellers: a) Obtain a certification from suppliers that their goods are safe from hazardous chemicals; and b) Only offer goods that are certified "non-toxic"' and adequately labeled.
To manufacturers: a) Only produce and market certified toxics-free children’s products; and b) Ensure full disclosure of product information, including chemical ingredients and their potential health effects.
To the government: a) Assign product safety inspectors and consumer complaint officers in Divisoria and other market hubs for school supplies; and b) Enact and enforce a law that will prohibit the use of cadmium, lead, phthalates and other major chemicals of concern in children’s products.