EcoWaste Coalition Alerts Consumers on Toy-Like Accessories Containing Toxic Lead

Refrigerator magnets with leaded paint coatings

Cord holders made of PVC plastic
The nice-looking magnets on your refrigerator and the cord holders for your e-gadgets may pose hazards to health and safety.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog group, made this precautionary warning after finding brightly painted animal fridge magnets and cartoon-embellished cord holders positive for lead, a toxic chemical added to some paints and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics.

The group’s advisory coincided with the global observance of World Consumer Rights Day today, March 15 and was issued to promote public awareness on the rights of consumers to product information and safety.

The group on March 11 purchased six samples of refrigerator magnets worth P10 each and 15 samples of cord holders worth P35 each from street vendors in Divisoria, Manila and had them screened for toxic metals. 

As per chemicals screening using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the group found all six samples of paint-coated animal magnets positive for lead up to 18,100 ppm, way above the 90 ppm limit for lead in decorative paints. 

The group also detected lead up to 5,616 in all but one of the 15 samples of PVC cord holders.

“The colorful animal figures attached to round magnets are individually packed in clear plastic and carried no labeling details, depriving consumers of their right to basic product information,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect

“The cord holders designed with iconic cartoon characters are incompletely labeled,” he added.

None of the products indicated lead as an active ingredient.  Lead is a chemical poison that can harm the brain and the central nervous system and damage other body organs, with children under six most at risk.

“The absence of such essential information about the product and their chemical composition goes against the consumer interest as guaranteed under Republic Act 7394 or the Consumer Act of the Philippines.  Consumers should and must insist on their right to know,” Dizon emphasized.

“While the refrigerator magnets and the cord holders are not meant to be used as toys, they could easily pass as toys to imaginative and playful children,” he said.

“Kids will find these items very attractive and innocently play, bite and chew on them, directly exposing them to lead hazard via ingestion,” he warned.

Even so, the most common way for children to ingest lead is still through lead-containing dust and soil that gets onto their hands and mouths, he clarified.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “the most critical consequence of  low level lead toxicity in utero and during childhood is damage to the developing brain and nervous system.”
Some of the consequences  of   brain  injury  from  exposure  to  lead  in  early  life, according to the WHO, are loss  of   intelligence,  shortening  of   attention  span  and  disruption  of  behavior.” 

Aside from lead exposure hazard, the sampled refrigerator magnets and cord holders may also pose choking hazard.  The magnets, for example, are not securely attached and can be easily swallowed by children, the EcoWaste Coalition warned.

To prevent lead exposure and choking hazard, “we advise those who have already bought such items to keep them out of children’s sight and reach,” the group said.



Additional information:

1.  REFRIGERATOR MAGNETS: In terms of lead content, the ladybug refrigerator magnet had 18,100 ppm of lead; the squirrel refrigerator magnet, 10,900 ppm; the cow refrigerator magnet, 6,720 ppm; the fish refrigerator magnet, 5,287 ppm; the snake refrigerator magnet, 5,126 ppm; and the elephant refrigerator magnet, 1,322 ppm.