Parents warned on lead-tainted children’s bags

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MANILA, Philippines — An environmental watch group has cautioned parents against buying lead-tainted lunch bags which could sicken kids.

Ecowaste Coalition said in a statement on Sunday that it found high levels of lead in “must-have” school supplies, particularly colorful lunch bags with drawings of cartoon characters, bought from discount hubs in Manila’s Divisoria and Quiapo districts.

In tests conducted by the group last week, Ecowaste found lead in 27 assorted lunch bags, all offered at discounted prices between P30 and P200, from different stores in the areas. One sample had as much as 3,000 parts per million (ppm) of the toxic metal while the US limit for lead content in paint and surface coatings has been pegged at 90 ppm.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lead can affect almost every organ and system in the body, and children, particularly those six years old and younger are most susceptible to its adverse effects.

The US EPA likewise said that “Even very low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in permanent damage to the brain and nervous system, leading to behavior and learning problems, lower IQ (intelligence quotient), and hearing problems, slowed growth, anemia and, in rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death.”

In a statement, acting Ecowaste national coordinator Aileen Lucero said, “We are disturbed by the levels of lead found in colorfully designed lunch bags that are mainly made of plastic materials. Lead may rub off the lunch bags and migrate to the food or hands of a child, causing the child to unknowingly ingest lead.”

She said, “We do not want to frighten our parents, but we cannot ignore the likelihood of some migration of lead to the food stored in the lunch bag.”

The group bought on April 28, May 1 and May 3 lunchbags in the Divisoria and Quiapo districts and screened the items for heavy metals using an x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzer. As a result, Ecowaste found lead in 27 of 35 lunch bags they analyzed, with one sample having as much as 3,347 ppm of the toxic metal.

Ecowaste also observed that none of the samples had complete and proper product labels, which would have given information on the bag’s manufacturer, importer or distributor as well as the materials and chemicals it is made of.

Lucero said that while the amounts of lead detected on the lunchbags may not cause acute poisoning, they could add to health risks particularly when a child is exposed to other sources of lead such as chipping paint as well as tainted toys and school supplies.

She added, “Parents need to be forewarned so they and their kids can take precaution against lead exposure. We owe it to our children to stop all preventable sources of childhood lead exposure.”

Lucero suggested that parents buy products that are properly labeled and that provide chemical safety information. She also advised parents to regularly clean and wash their kids’ lunch bags to remove dust and toxins.

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