Beware of toxic school supplies
With an estimated 27.8 million students heading back to school on Monday, an environment and health watchdog has cautioned parents anew on purchasing school supplies containing toxic chemicals.
Manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers of school supplies should also ensure that the materials they are selling are properly labeled, and that these are completely safe for children to use, EcoWaste Coalition also said.
On the lookout
“Parents should be on the lookout for items that may contain hazardous chemicals, such as cadmium, lead and phtalates,” said Thony Dizon, the group’s chemical safety campaigner.
While many school materials are harmless, some may contain undisclosed chemicals that are banned or restricted due to their adverse effect on health and the environment, Dizon said.
EcoWaste Coalition said its personnel bought a number of school supplies, many of which were lacking labels, from street vendors and retail stores in Divisoria and Quiapo in Manila, where materials are sold at lower prices, and in Pasay, Makati and Quezon City.
Levels of concern
Using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence device, the group scanned art materials, bags, water containers and rain gears, as well as accessories for school children, such as hair clips.
Out of 87 samples, 34 were found to have lead and/or cadmium above levels of concern.
Lead was detected in 32 samples that exceeded the regulatory limit of 90 parts per million. It was found highest in the Artex Fine Water Colors (bright yellow cake) at 86,000 ppm. The water color brand was banned by the Food and Drug Administration as early as 2014 for its high lead levels.
Even a simple Doraemon bag tag had lead levels of up to 3,659 ppm, while a Hello Kitty backpack had 1,879 ppm.
Cadmium was also found in at least 12 samples, including raincoats and backpacks.
According to the World Health Organization, lead exposure can cause lifelong learning and behavioral problems among children, and hypertension and other health issues among adults.
“Even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and, in some cases, irreversible neurological damage,” EcoWaste Coalition said.
Cadmium has been classified as carcinogenic to humans. It has also been associated with birth defects and learning disabilities.
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