Toxics Watch Group Cites FDA for Banning Dangerous School Supplies

The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit group promoting chemical safety, gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a thumbs up for the latter’s action to rid the market of toxic school supplies.

The group cited the series of advisories issued by the FDA against the purchase and use of art materials laden with dangerous chemicals such as mercury, lead and cadmium.

At the same time, the group urged the agency to issue notice of violation against erring stores after being able to purchase some of the banned products from legitimate retail establishments notwithstanding the public health warnings issued by the FDA.

In test buys conducted on January 28 and 29, 2018, the EcoWaste Coalition managed to procure banned Artex, MPC Classique and Xiao Yiren water color sets, Fairyland crayons, and Leeho glitter fabric paint pen from dealers of school supplies in Divisoria, Quiapo and Sampaloc, Manila.

“The public health warnings issued by the FDA on school supplies laced with hazardous substances above permissible levels are crucial tools that can inform and guide consumers in making sound and safe buying decisions,” stated Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“FDA’s action to take lead-containing art materials off store shelves, in particular, promotes industry compliance to DENR’s Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds, which prohibits lead in the production of school supplies,” he pointed out.

Since 2014, the FDA has banned three brands of water colors, two brands of crayons, a brand of pencil and a brand of fabric paint pen, some of which are marked with the “non-toxic” claim on the packaging.

Last week on January 24, the FDA banned “12 in 1 Pencil,” “Fairyland 16 Crayons,” and “Leeho Glitter Fabric Paint Pens” for containing unacceptable levels of heavy metals, including cadmium, lead and mercury.

Last year, the FDA banned “MPC Classique Water Colors,” “Xiao Yiren Water Colors” and “Ultra Colours Jumbo Crayons” after laboratory analyses confirmed lead content above the maximum allowable limit of 90 ppm.

In 2014, the FDA, after being alerted by the EcoWaste Coalition, banned “Artex Fine Water Colors” for containing lead up to 5,089 ppm.

According to Dizon, “the advisories are extremely useful as the names of the products that have been verified to contain violative levels of prohibited or restricted chemical substances are specifically named with matching photographs.” 

“The advisories provide helpful information about the health effects of the chemical substances in question and the consequences of exposure,” he added.

“The advisories also direct commercial establishments not to distribute the non-compliant products, and request local government units and law enforcement agencies to ensure that such products are not sold in their areas of jurisdiction,” he said.

To ensure the advisories are strictly enforced and that the banned products are duly withdrawn from the market, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the FDA go after non-compliant wholesale and retail stores.

The group also exhorted local government and police authorities, consumer protection groups and other sectors to actively back FDA's efforts to crack down on violators.