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High levels of toxic lead found in 5 local watercolor sets

/ 02:02 AM April 21, 2014

An environment and consumer safety watch group has found high levels of toxic lead in five locally manufactured brands of watercolor sets bought from various stores in Metro Manila.

Following its finding, EcoWaste Coalition reminded parents to buy only nontoxic materials that their children can use in summer art classes and workshops.

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The group bought early this month 22 samples of watercolor sets from three school supply stores in Manila, Makati and Quezon cities, and screened the samples for toxic metals with a portable X-ray fluorescence device.

According to EcoWaste Project Protect coordinator Thony Dizon, out of the 22 watercolor set samples,  five brands, which were manufactured by a Malabon City-based company, contained high concentrations of lead particularly in the yellow cake, while the rest had low or nondetectable levels of the toxic metal.

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Dizon said a laboratory analysis conducted by SGS, a testing company, confirmed that the five samples  had from 5,900 parts per million (ppm) to as much as 37,000 ppm  in their yellow cakes.

The use of lead in the manufacture of school supplies is prohibited by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), he stressed.

“Lead enters a child’s body when it is inhaled or ingested. It can also be transferred from the mother across the placenta to the fetus. Permanent damage to health can happen when lead, even at low levels, is used by a child’s growing body to make brain connections, bones and muscles, instead of calcium and other vital nutrients,” he explained.

He cited a World Health Organization report which said, “Children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead: Relatively low levels of exposure can reduce IQ scores, and cause learning disabilities, poor school performance or violent behavior, and result in reduced lifetime earnings.”

EcoWaste said it  requested on April 7 and April 15 the manufacturer of the lead-tainted watercolor sets to recall its products but has not received a response.  The group has informed the DENR, as well as the health and trade departments, of its findings.

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