Group warns of some candles’ toxic lead contentBy DJ Yap
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Imported candles with leaded wicks long banned in the United States and other countries are being sold in Manila’s Chinatown just days before All Saints Day and All Souls Day, an environmentalist group said Saturday.
In test buys conducted a few days before “Undas,” the time of the year Filipinos pay their respects to the dead, EcoWaste Coalition discovered that leaded wick candles were available locally, particularly in Binondo, Manila.
The US has banned the use of thin lead wire to support or straighten the braided or woven wicks of candles since 2003. Leaded wicks are also banned in Australia, Canada, Denmark and other countries, according to EcoWaste.
“We were really shocked to discover that some imported candles made of gel or paraffin wax had lead-cored wicks that produce health-damaging lead vapor and dust during burning,” said Thony Dizon, coordinator of EcoWaste’s Project Protect.
“Lead builds up in the body, and even exposure to tiny amounts can add to the level of lead in the blood. This is utterly dangerous, especially for unborn babies and growing children,” he said in a statement.
Furthermore, the burning of candles with lead wicks indoors or outdoors will contribute to lead levels in the surroundings, the group said.
Seven of 12 candles EcoWaste bought on October 26 from specialty shops at Benavidez, Masangkay and Ongpin Streets in Binondo were found to contain traces of lead, ranging from 34,800 parts per million (ppm) to 62,900 ppm, or an average of 43,943 ppm.
Six of the seven lead-tainted items were also found to contain other heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium and mercury “above levels of concern,” the group said.
EcoWaste used a portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometer to screen the candle samples for heavy metals.
The group cited the findings of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which banned the manufacture and sale of lead-cored wicks and candles with lead-cored wicks in 2003 after determining that these could release huge quantities of lead into the air during burning.
“Children may then inhale the vaporized lead, placing them at risk. Children may also be exposed to lead by mouthing objects on which lead has settled or by handling such objects and then mouthing their hands,” the CPSC was quoted as saying.
The impact of children’s exposure to lead is often irreversible, and can bring about life-long health problems, EcoWaste said.
According to a fact sheet prepared by the group, lead poisoning in children results in brain and nervous system damage, lower IQ, developmental delays, decreased bone and muscle growth, poor muscle coordination, hearing, speech and language difficulties, and behavioral problems.
To guard against lead exposure, EcoWaste advised the public to refrain from buying candles with metallic core unless it is certified to be a non-lead material, and use only candles from reputable candle makers that are of good quality, non-toxic and locally-made.
It also appealed to the government to unilaterally ban candles with wicks containing lead and to constantly monitor the market to ensure that only safe candles are sold to consumers.