A toxics watchdog exhorted local government units (LGUs), non-government organizations and companies that are planning to give bags to less-privileged children in time for the school reopening to get a formal certification from suppliers confirming the safety of their products from lead, a brain-damaging chemical.
“We appeal to generous givers from the public and private sectors to offer bags that have undergone lead safety tests to ensure that their gifts would not expose the recipients to lead,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“The LGUs and other bag donors can demand a certification from their suppliers that their bags passed the limit for total lead content as analyzed by qualified government-accredited laboratories prior to procuring and giving away the items,” she said.
“This is one way of ensuring that bag donors do not in any way contribute to childhood lead exposure that may hinder a child’s well-rounded development,” she emphasized.
“As there are other chemicals aside from lead that may adversely affect children’s health, we also suggest that the bags be tested for other priority substances such as phthalates, which are commonly used as plasticizers in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic,” she added. Phthalates are known endocrine disrupting chemicals.
Lucero’s appeal came in the aftermath of her group’s recent investigation that detected lead up to 5,752 parts per million (ppm) in 23 out of 25 kiddie backpacks, way above the 90 ppm limit in US for lead in paint and surface coatings.
Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, EcoWaste researchers discovered excessive amounts of lead on the painted portions of some plastic backpacks, particularly on the designs, logos and the main materials of which the bags are made of.
According to the EcoWaste Coalition, lead exposure can retard the development of a child’s developing central nervous system and permanently damage the brain even at low levels of exposure, stressing that the effects are not immediately observed and that there are no obvious symptoms until the blood lead level is very high.
Health studies have shown that childhood lead exposure can result to a broad range of serious developmental and behavioral problems, including reading and learning disabilities, inattentiveness, hyperactivity and irritability, lower IQ and poor school performance.
Lead can enter a human body mainly through the inhalation or ingestion of lead particles or dust from chipping or flaking paints in homes, playgrounds, schools and other facilities, as well as from lead-containing products such as toys and other children’s articles.
In his letter to the EcoWaste Coalition in 2011, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that “clinical toxicologists have indicated that there are no safe levels for lead exposure among children.”
“This fact make banning of substances containing lead an imperative,” he said.
The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.