Watchdog Finds Dangerous Levels of Lead in 43 Fashion Blings and Things

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog, has found dangerous levels of lead, a highly toxic chemical, in many inexpensive fashion blings and things being sold in Divisoria and Quiapo, Manila as Christmas shopping soars.

Out of 65 samples that it purchased from various retailers for P15 to P125 each, the group detected lead up to 388,000 parts per million (ppm) in 43  samples, way above the EU limit of 500 ppm for lead in jewelry articles or the US limit of 100 ppm for lead in children’s products, including kids’ jewelry.

Twenty of the 43 lead-tainted samples had lead above 100,000 ppm, the group pointed out.

“We are gravely concerned that curious kids might pick and put these extremely leaded blings and things into their mouths and  swallow them by mistake, causing serious health problems such as acute lead poisoning that can kill an innocent child,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Such poisonous items will be unlawful to sell in developed countries,” she added.

Lucero recalled the heartrending case of Jarnell Brown, a four-year old boy from Minnesota, USA who died in 2006 few days after accidentally swallowing a heart-shaped metal charm containing excessive amounts of lead.

Other adverse health effects of lead exposure in children that can have lifelong consequences include brain and nervous system damage, decreased IQ levels, learning disabilities, delayed growth, hearing loss and behavioral problems.

Equipped with a screening device called the X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, the group found extreme levels of lead in specific components of some bracelets, brooches, earrings, necklaces, rings and other accessories.

Some of the most leaded items include:

1. A bracelet and earring set with heart charms, 388,000 ppm
2. A brooch with flower and leaf design, 307,400 ppm
3. A brooch with bird design, 272,700 ppm
4. A necklace with assorted pendants, 243,000 ppm
5. A necklace with pearl-like beads and butterfly and flower
ornaments, 232,700 ppm
6. A red and white skull earring, 232,600 ppm
7. A flower design earring, 215,100 ppm
8. A green slipper pendant, 214,600 ppm
9. A double ring with heads of two dragons, 196,900 ppm
10. A green Hello Kitty earring, 172,000 ppm
11. A Spongebob SquarePants pendant, 171,700 ppm
12. A double ring with two dragons, 155,800 ppm
13. An antique-like bracelet, 132,100 ppm
14. An earring with flower design, 131,000 ppm

In addition to the above 14 items, six other items had lead exceeding 100,000 ppm.

None of the samples indicated their lead content to warn consumers.

The prevalence of unlabeled leaded imitation jewelry and fashion accessories in the market, which are mostly obtained from overseas, prompted the EcoWaste Coalition to prod the government to act.

The group specifically urged the government to come up with a health-based policy banning the use of lead in jewelry, including children’s jewelry, for public health and safety.

The group also urged traders not to sell dubious items and for consumers not to buy such items unless certified safe from lead and other toxic metals.