The EcoWaste Coalition, a watch group on toxic chemicals and wastes, today went to a public high school in Kaunlaran Village, Navotas City to promote student and teacher awareness on hazardous substances lurking in some toys, school supplies and cosmetics.
To conclude its participation in this year’s National Poison Prevention Week, the group conducted a lively chemical alertness activity at the Kaunlaran High School.
“Not all products are created equal. Some products are laden with dangerous chemicals that can pose serious threat to a person’s health and even pollute the environment. In many cases, these poison chemicals are not written on the product labels, thus keeping consumers in the dark,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
Dr. Annabelle Sinlao, who graduated valedictorian from Kaunlaran High School, told the audience that “we need to be on the lookout for these hidden toxins in the products that we use, which can penetrate our bodies via ingestion, inhalation or skin absorption and cause damage to our health even at low levels of exposure.”
Both Dizon and Sinlao emphasized the need for manufacturers to produce non-toxic products and for companies to provide complete product information, including the chemical ingredients comprising a product and their effects, if any, to health and the environment.
To show that some products contain hazardous substances, the group screened a variety of samples using a handy X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer that is able to rapidly identify and measure up to 20 elements present in a given sample.
Engr. Mark Anthony Sodila of QES (Manila), Inc., assisted by the EcoWaste Coalition’s staff, conducted the on-the-spot product screening activity.
With the help of the XRF device, the group uncovered high concentrations of cadmium, lead and mercury, among other toxic metals, in some children’s toys, school supplies and cosmetics.
For example, cadmium was detected in one plastic raincoat with a popular “Ben 10”cartoon character; lead was found in a variety of school supplies such as backpacks, paper clips and water colors, as well as in lipsticks; and mercury was discovered in skin whitening facial creams.
Cadmium, lead and mercury are among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern,” according to the World Health Organization, which are known to cause reproductive and birth defects, developmental abnormalities, brain and central nervous system disorders, hormonal disruptions, behavioral problems, and other health issues.
To prevent exposure to unsafe toys, the EcoWaste Coalition stressed that consumers should examine the product label, particularly the age recommendation, precautionary warnings, safety instructions and manufacturing details, as well as to look for the government-issued license to operate (LTO) number.
When buying school supplies, the group reminded the audience to carefully read the labelling information and seek non-toxic products, avoiding items made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, those with strong chemical smell and those painted with bright colors unless certified as lead-safe.
As for cosmetics, the group advised consumers to peruse the product label, which should contain the required information in English such as the brand and product name along with the function, ingredients, net content, directions for use, special precautions, batch number, manufacturing/expiry date, country of manufacture, and name and address of the company or person who placed the product on the market.
The group also encouraged the public to visit the website of the Food and Drugs Administration for other useful tips on how to select safe toys, school supplies, cosmetics and other products.