MANILA, Philippines—Some lunar new year charms and accessories might not exactly bring good fortune.
Consumer safety watchdog Ecowaste Coalition discovered dangerous chemicals in 28 lucky charms and accessories, including a fertility amulet with a high level of lead that ironically could induce miscarriage and premature childbirth.
Using an x-ray fluorescence (XRF) device, Ecowaste’s Task Force Chemical Safety found toxic metals such as chromium, lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and antimony on 28 of 30 animal figurines as well as figures of Buddha and Confucius, amulets, bracelets, hanging décor, urns, and other charms for wealth and good health.
The samples were tested in anticipation of the beginning of the Year of the Water Snake on February 10.
Out of the samples bought on January 31 from different stores and shops in Manila’s Binondo District, 18 were found to have chromium; 13 had lead; nine had arsenic; six had antimony; four had cadmium; and three had mercury. Most of the items contained mixtures of the toxic metals.
Among the tested samples were a yellow-gold Chi Lin amulet containing 47,400 ppm of lead and 1,350 ppm of chromium; a beaded door décor with the highest amounts of cadmium and antimony at 15,200 ppm and 3,357 ppm; a Confucius figurine containing 8,801 ppm of lead, 5,359 ppm of chromium, 1,069 ppm of arsenic, and 12 ppm of mercury; a “bagua”—a kind of charm for hanging above doors — containing 4,399 ppm of lead, 2,212 ppm of chromium, 531 ppm of arsenic, and 31 ppm of mercury; six snake lucky charms which contained chromium traces from 103 ppm to 972 ppm; and four bracelets which had multiple toxic metals at different levels.
Aileen Lucero of the Ecowaste Coalition said in a statement, “Lucky charms which are believed to produce a positive influence over a person’s good health and fortune should not contain hazardous substances that bring adverse health effects.”
She particularly cited a fertility amulet for childless couples which had the highest level of lead at 47,400 parts per million (ppm), way beyond the 100 ppm limit for toys and children’s articles under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
Lucero explained, “Lead is extremely toxic and can be passed from a mother to her unborn child. Too much lead in a mother’s body increases the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth, premature birth and low weight birth and may cause the child to have behavioral or learning difficulties. This makes the presence of lead in a ‘baby boom’ amulet bizarre and unacceptable.”
According to the United Nations Environmental Program, lead is toxic even at very low exposure levels and can have “neurological, cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, haematological, and reproductive effects.”
UNEP described cadmium as a toxic metal that could adversely affect the kidneys and the human skeleton. It said that cadmium is a “carcinogen by inhalation and is accumulated in the bone and may serve as a source of exposure later in life.”
Cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury are among the list of ten chemicals of major public health concern of the World Health Organization. They are also included in the country’s priority chemicals list along with chromium.
Lucero said: “Toxic chemicals have no room in auspicious materials that Filipinos find in Chinatown in anticipation of good luck and as defense against misfortune. Manufacturers should get rid of toxic ingredients in their raw materials and look for safer alternatives, and disclose full chemical information on product labels.”