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School supplies test positive for lead

Group finds above normal levels of toxin in raincoats, bags, pencil cases

Parents, take warning.

The cheap raincoats which protect your children from the rain may be exposing them to a more toxic chemical—lead.

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According to a pro-environment group, some of the school supplies being sold at stores in Divisoria, Manila have been found to contain lead.

EcoWaste Coalition yesterday said that it bought 25 school supply items such as raincoats, bags and pencil cases from 168 Mall, Tutuban Mall and nearby retail stores on July 22 to test these for toxic chemicals.

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The results of the tests conducted by visiting scientist Dr. Joe DiGangi of the US-based International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) showed that 15 of the samples were positive for lead.

“Out of the 25 product samples we tested, lead was detected in 15 samples ranging from 96 parts per million (ppm) up to 14,100 ppm,” said Thony Dizon, coordinator of the coalition’s Project Protect.

The threshold limit for lead in the United States is 90 ppm under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the group said.

It added that lead was detected in pencil cases, raincoats and a variety of bags, including backpacks, shoulder bags, lunch bags and carry bags.

The top five samples that registered the highest lead content were a yellow PVC Tweety raincoat (14,100 ppm ); a light yellow PVC Tazmanian Devil raincoat (4,741 ppm); a green Spiderman backpack with lunch bag (2,852 ppm); a yellow Spongebob shoulder bag (2,478 ppm) and a yellow Spongebob pencil case (1,561 ppm), it said.

Lead is particularly harmful to children because it can damage or retard brain development and cause many health problems, including learning delays and disabilities, lower IQ scores and a shorter attention span, the group stressed.

“The low levels of lead found in a few items [do] not mean that there are no health effects. Health experts have confirmed that there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for children,” Dizon said in a statement.

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Thirteen school supplies were also found to contain other toxic metals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium and chromium, he added.

“For example, a Spiderman backpack had 1,064 ppm of antimony, a PVC raincoat with a Tweety design had 278 ppm of arsenic, a pull bag had 287 ppm of cadmium and a Mickey Mouse pencil case had 4,026 ppm of chromium, all exceeding levels of concern,” he said.

DiGangi used a portable device called an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer to screen the school supplies for toxic metals. The XRF is routinely used by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission in their regulatory functions.

“The results of our probe should compel manufacturers to step up, remove chemicals of concern from their products and switch to non-toxic ingredients that will not jeopardize the health of children who are most vulnerable to toxins,” said DiGangi, IPEN science and technical advisor.

According to him, children are “prone to toxic exposure because they breathe more air, consume more food and water, and are often exposed to harmful substances resulting from their common hand-to-mouth activities and not to forget that their vital organs and systems are still immature and developing.”

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TAGS: Consumer issues, products, toxic chemicals
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