EcoWaste Coalition Finds Brain-Harming Poison in Kiddie Bags

Parents beware: some kiddie backpacks are laden with brain-damaging chemical associated with lower intelligence quotient (IQ) score.

The EcoWaste Coaliton, a toxics watchdog, made the warning as bags and other back-to-school necessities come into sight in Divisoria, the nation’s bargain shopping hub.

As part of its series of product sampling ahead of the reopening of school classes, the group bought 25 samples of bags, costing P50 to P280 each and with colors and images appealing to children, from bargain stores and sidewalk vendors in Juan Luna St. and Recto Ave. in Divisoria and Rizal Ave. in Sta. Cruz, Manila

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, EcoWaste researchers screened the samples for lead, a potent brain and nervous system poison, and other chemicals linked to serious health and environmental problems.

In the absence of a specific standard for lead in children’s bags, the EcoWaste Coalition used as reference the 90 parts per million (ppm) limit for lead in consumer paints and surface coatings under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Out of 25 samples, 23 (92%) were found to contain lead up to 5,752 ppm in excess of the 90 ppm threshold. None of the samples had proper product labels.

“Parents should not only be worried with overloaded school bags that can cause back pain and deformities,” stated Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Parents should be concerned as well with toxins prowling in those bags that can impair brain development, causing shorter attention span, learning disabilities and decrease in IQ score,” she suggested.

The “Risk Management Strategy for Lead” published by Health Canada in February 2013 said that “research suggests that an incremental increase in blood lead levels of 1 microgram per deciliter is associated with approximately a one IQ point deficit,” the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.

The European Food Safety Authority, US Environmental Protection Authority, World Health Organization (WHO) and other health and science bodies have not identified a safe level of exposure to lead below which no adverse health effects can be observed, the EcoWaste Coalition noted.

According to WHO, “the potential for adverse effects of lead exposure is greater for children than for adults, because in children 1) the intake of lead per unit body weight is higher, 2) more dust may be ingested, 3) lead absorption in the gastrointestinal tract is higher, 4) the blood–brain barrier is not yet fully developed and 5) neurological effects occur at lower levels than in adults.”

“This is why it is crucial to get rid of childhood lead exposure at its source such as lead-added paints, lead-containing consumer products, and lead-contaminated dust and waste,” Lucero added.

“This is why lawmakers and regulators need to act fast to ban lead in paints and products, particularly those designed for children’s use such as kiddie bag and other school supplies,” she said.

The main routes of exposure to lead are through ingestion, inhalation and, in minimal cases, via dermal contact or skin absorption.

Based on the chemical analysis conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition, the following kiddie bags registered with lead over 1,000 ppm:

1.   Superman 5,752 ppm
2.   Dragon Ball Z, 4,156 ppm
3.   Ben 10, 3,536 ppm
4.   Superman, 3,317 ppm
5.   One Piece, 2,660 ppm
6.   SpongeBob SquarePants, 2,565 ppm
7.   Slam Dunk, 2,233 ppm
8.   Superman, 2,127 ppm
9.   SpongeBob SquarePants, 1,830 ppm
10. Ben 10, 1,595 ppm
11. Princess, 1,464 ppm
12. Iron Man, 1,254 ppm
13. Avengers, 1,102 ppm

To minimize exposure to lead in school bags and related articles, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends that parents:

1. Avoid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic bags as their materials may contain lead used as stabilizer, as well as phthalates used as plasticizers.  Lead and phthalates are listed among endocrine disrupting chemicals, or chemicals that may interfere with the production or activity on hormones in the human endocrine system.

2  Avoid bags painted with colorful designs unless labelled and certified safe from lead paint.

3.  Avoid school bags that have strong chemical smells, indicating the use of paints with high levels of volatile organic compounds.

4.  Avoid  products with “cracked” painted design as it could easily chip off  under normal use, potentially spreading lead-containing paint flakes and dust.

5. Avoid products lacking essential product information such as the manufacturer’s or distributor’s contact information in case you need to make an inquiry or complaint.

6.  Ask for receipts in case you need to return the items you bought if they are found to be defective, substandard or unsafe.
The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.