Watch out for ‘toxic’ saints

Environmental group’s holy week warning:
/ 01:15 AM April 14, 2014

During the celebration of Palm Sunday which marked the start of Holy Week, an environmental group cautioned devotees against buying religious images near Quiapo Church in Manila after these were found to contain high levels of lead, a toxic chemical.

EcoWaste Coalition recently bought from sidewalk vendors in the area six religious figures, mostly images of saints, made of fiberglass at prices ranging from P200 to P400 each.


Using an X-ray fluorescence analytical device, the group tested the religious images with the results showing that all six contained lead in amounts way beyond the threshold limit set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of 90 parts per million.

Following its finding, EcoWaste advised the public to be careful in kissing or touching these lead-laden images as these could be very harmful to their health.


Considered one of the 10 chemicals of major public health concern by the World Health Organization (WHO), lead is considered a very poisonous chemical which can lead to problems in the central nervous system, resulting in convulsions, coma or even death.

According to a fact sheet it issued in September last year, lead affects multiple body systems and is “particularly harmful to young children.”

The WHO estimated that yearly, childhood lead exposure contributed to about 600,000 new cases of children diagnosed with intellectual disabilities.

“Exposure to this harmful substance is also estimated to account for about 143,000 deaths annually, especially in developing regions in the world,” it added.

“We respect the practice of the Catholic faithful [of kissing or touching] religious icons to express their belief as well as to seek divine guidance and intercession, but the repetition of these practices may cause the paint to come off,” said EcoWaste Coalition Project Protect coordinator Thony Dizon.

He added that chipping paint was a health concern, especially if it contains lead and mixes with the dust inhaled by children and pregnant women.

“We urge manufacturers of these religious icons to [use unleaded paint] and to put proper labels on the products to help the consumers in [coming up with] an informed choice,” Dizon said.


The group also asked the Catholic Church to use its moral authority to persuade manufacturers to sell only safe religious icons.

“We further suggest that only lead-safe paints be used in Church-run facilities, including the interiors and exteriors of churches, hospitals and schools, as an essential measure to prevent lead exposure,” Dizon added.

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TAGS: EcoWaste Coalition, Religious Icons, Toxic Materials
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