AS this year’s school opening fast approaches, the Philippine EcoWaste Coalition warns the public, especially the parents and guardians of grade schoolers, from buying school supplies tainted with lead, a cancer causing and brain damaging chemical.
Thony Dizon, EcoWaste Coalition Project Protect coordinator, said nearly half of the school supplies they screened tested positive for lead. He added their finding should make all parents and guardians really worried for their kids.
“Forty-three percent of the 75 items that we screened for toxic lead had lead levels that should make parents, who care for their children’s health and well-being, worried, Dizon said.
He noted, however, that despite their alarming findings there are still a lot of lead free school items in the masket.
“On the other hand, 57 percent of the samples were found to be lead-free, indicating the availability of alternative products that are safe to use by children,” Dizon pointed out.
Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the EcoWaste Coalition detected lead in 32 out of 75 school supplies in the scale of 201 to 87,000 parts per million (ppm), way above the regulatory limit of 90 ppm. These items were purchased from formal and informal retailers in Divisoria and Quiapo, Manila; Monumento, Caloocan City and Cubao in Quezon City.
Topping this year’s “dirty dozen” school supplies with lead above 5,000 ppm were:
1. A plastic envelope with yellow handle, 87,000 ppm.
2. A yellow thumb tack, 78,700 ppm
3. An “Artex Fine Water Colors” set, 62,600 ppm
4. A plastic envelope with red handle, 36,800 ppm
5. An orange metal water jug with “Car” design, 28,200 ppm
6. A “Rubber Duck” pencil pouch, 27,800 ppm
7. A yellow “Despicable Me” pencil pouch, 22,000 ppm
8. A PVC keychain with ice cream design, 13,100 ppm
9. A “Ronron” school bag, 7,081 ppm
10. A yellow vinyl coated paper clip, 6,015 ppm
11. A “Minghao” school bag, 5,862 ppm
12. A “Snoopy” school bag, 5,777 ppm
The group noted that in 2014 the Food and Drugs Administration banned “Artex Fine Water Colors” for containing high lead content as reported to the agency by the EcoWaste Coalition.
Lead, a hazardous substance linked to cancer, and learning and behavioral problems, is prohibited in the production of school supplies as per DENR Administrative Order 2013-24 or the “Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.”
It should be noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed lead as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern,” contributing to about 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year with the highest burden in developing regions.
“Children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage,” the WHO said.
Lead, the WHO further said, is “a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.”
“There is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe,” the WHO warned.
Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coaltion, a non-profit pro-public health and environment group, recently conducted a teach-in among children and parents in a small day care center at the densely populated slum community of Tatalon in Quezon City.
For the fifth year in a row, the coalition warned against toxic lead in school supplies as part of its annual back-to-school campaign for children’s health and safety.
As Rodrigo Duterte, the presumptive president, is about to take over the reins of the government by June 30, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed the need for the next administration to do more to curb the sale of school supplies and other children’s products laden with lead and other harmful chemicals.
“We hope, in the next six years of the Duterte presidency, consumers will no longer worry that they are buying poison products for their children and that they are not sending hazardous substances to school with their kids,” Dizon said.
“As a doting grandfather, we believe that Duterte will make it sure that only non-toxic school supplies, toys and other children’s products are offered for sale by manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers,” he added.