A watchdog group promoting proactive steps to prevent and control lead pollution sources urged the Department of Health (DOH) to stop the continued sale of imported candles with leaded wicks in Manila’s Chinatown.
Through a letter sent last week to Health Secretary Janette Garin, the EcoWaste Coalition asked the DOH through the Food and Drugs Administration, which has jurisdiction over candle products, to immediately ban the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of candles with lead-containing wicks to safeguard public health.
Unlike locally-made candles that has mostly cotton-based wicks, some gel or paraffin wax Chinese candles contain lead core wicks, which can emit lead fumes during burning, the group told Garin.
Based on the group’s latest test buys, some Chinese candles contain from 17,300 to over 100,000 parts per million (ppm) of lead in the metal core wicks.
“It’s not safe to burn candles with leaded wicks, especially for young children and pregnant women who can be exposed to lead in the smoke and soot,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect, stressing that “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Children are most susceptible to the adverse health effects of exposure to lead,” said Dizon who added that “such exposure can irreparably damage the developing brain of the fetus in the womb and even trigger miscarriage for pregnant women,” he added.
The group also informed Garin that samples of candles with lead wicks sent by the EcoWaste Coalition to the SGS for laboratory analysis in October 2014 found 207,350 ppm of lead in the composite wicks of the samples.
Candles with lead core wicks had been banned since 1999 in Australia, 2001 in Finland, 2002 in Denmark and 2003 in the USA in to prevent children’s exposure to lead fumes.
In particular, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has determined that candles with leaded wicks could pose a lead poisoning hazard to young children, prompting the agency to ban such candles since October 2003.
“The Commission finds that metal-cored candlewicks containing more than 0.06 percent lead by weight (or 600 ppm) in the metal and candles with such wicks are hazardous substances, and that, due to the degree and nature of the hazard presented by these items, in order to protect the public health and safety it is necessary to keep them out of commerce,” the CPSC ruling said.
Subsequent health warning from the US CPSC said that “children may then inhale the vaporized lead, placing them at risk,” adding that “children may also be exposed to lead by mouthing objects on which lead has settled or by handling such objects and then mouthing their hands.”
“We hope that Secretary Garin will heed our appeal and order the ban and removal of dangerous candles with leaded wicks in the market,” Dizon said.
In the meantime, the group urged consumers to choose candles for the upcoming All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day with care, advising the public to avoid buying and using candles with metallic core unless certified to be lead-safe, and to patronize locally-made candles that are of good quality and non-toxic.