As shopping frenzy reaches fever pitch this week, a chemical safety advocacy group warned consumers that some Christmas-themed mugs and plates may contain undisclosed amounts of cadmium and lead.
The EcoWaste Coalition revealed that the 12 coffee mugs and 8 flat plates bought by the group from retailers in Quiapo, Manila screened positive for both cadmium and lead.
The colorful mugs and plates are adorned with assorted images of Santa Claus and other favorite Christmas icons and sold for P25 to P100 each.
As per X-Ray Fluorescence screening, all the items contained high levels of lead and cadmium. A plate with Santa design, for example, had 10,100 parts per million (ppm) of lead and 2,113 ppm of cadmium, while a mug with a Christmas tree design had 12,600 ppm lead and 2,912 cadmium.
None of the analyzed mugs and plates provided information on their chemical composition, and none provided any cautionary warnings.
Cadmium can cause cancer, while lead can harm the brain and the central nervous system resulting in decreased intelligence, developmental disabilities and behavioral problems, among a long list of health problems, the EcoWaste Coalition said.
“While the XRF screening is unable to determine if cadmium and/or lead can leach out of these mugs and plates, the results provide a good marker on the presence of these toxic chemicals in glazes or in paints, which can pose a potential health risk for workers and for consumers, especially if used for preparing, storing or serving highly acidic foods and liquids,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“There are ceramic ware in retail stores with no detectable cadmium or lead that have glossy finish, bright colors, and beautiful designs. Unfortunately, consumers will not know which ones are safe from these toxic substances due to lack of chemicals in products labeling information,” he added.
“Consumers should demand for cadmium-free and lead-free ceramic ware. If no assurance can be provided that a mug or plate is safe from cadmium and lead, it will be better to opt for clear glass items with no painted decorations or markings, so long as these are not made of leaded crystal," he suggested.
Last December 8, the US Food and Drug Administration issued Import Alert No. 52-08 notifying field personnel about ceramic ware containing excessive cadmium and lead from certain manufacturers and/or shippers.
According to the US FDA, “lead and cadmium are components of the glaze used in making ceramic ware, and can leach into foods in significant amounts when the glaze is improperly formulated, applied, or fired.”
“Lead can also leach from the colors used to make patterns in some ceramic ware,” it added.