Toxic watchdog group BAN Toxics urged parents to be prudent and practice caution in buying school supplies after its recent market surveillance of school supplies in a popular public market tested positive for toxic lead – a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.
With the resumption of classes this August, the group conducted a test buy of selected school supplies in Divisoria, Manila. Among the popular items bought are kiddie backpacks, crayons, pastel colors, pencils, pencil cases, and water containers.
Using a SCIAPS X-200 HH XRF Analyzer, the school supplies were screened and found to have lead content. Among the samples, the kiddie water container has the highest concentration of lead with up to 24,500 parts per million (ppm).
Most of the school supplies tested have either incomplete product information or none at all.
The Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Lead and Lead Compounds or DAO 2013-24 issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) strictly prohibits the use of lead in school supplies, to protect children from exposure.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that lead is a well-recognized toxicant that has a wide range of health impacts that particularly affect the neurological, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and haematological systems. Young children are specifically vulnerable as they have higher exposures than adults.
Lead can affect children’s brain development, resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as reduced attention span, increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment. Lead exposure also causes anemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity, and toxicity to the reproductive organs. The neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible.
“Our investigation proves the continued presence of toxic chemicals in children’s products. We advise parents to take necessary precautions when buying school supplies,” said Thony Dizon, Toxics Campaigner of BAN Toxics.
“To ensure the welfare and protection of consumers against toxic chemical threats in children’s products, we urge government agencies as well as local authorities to establish “Consumer Action Centers” in public markets and malls for on-site consumer-related assistance including product standard and safety,” he added.
In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advisory reminding the public to be more vigilant and to exercise caution when purchasing school supplies, especially for young children.
The FDA guidelines include the following to help consumers in making informed purchases of school supplies:
- Always read the product labels of the school supplies. Bear in mind the safety precautions on the use of school supplies. Take note of the name and address of the manufacturer, distributor, and importer responsible for placing the school supply in the market. Be aware of the warning or hazard symbols that may appear on the packaging, as well as instructions to follow in case of emergencies regarding the misuse of said product.
- Choose school supplies suitable for your children. In general, school supplies are supposed to be safe for children of all ages. Although in some cases, a number of school supplies can pose health hazards such as choking from removable parts like erasers in pencils, and ingestion of glue and paints.
- Periodically examine school supplies for breakage or wear that may cause injury or other risks to the health and safety of the child.
- Always buy school supplies from reputable retailers or outlets. This will ensure the quality and safety of products.
- Immediately consult a physician in cases of accidental ingestion or any adverse health effects while using school supplies.
- Contact the FDA if your children encounter safety and/or health-related problems.
- Consumers are encouraged to browse the FDA website (http:www.fda.gov.ph) to keep abreast regarding school supply-related updates.
This effort is part of the Toxics-Free School Program (TFSP) campaign by BAN Toxics, which aims to increase awareness on the issue of toxic pollution in schools, homes and communities. The program seeks to promote safe and environment-friendly alternatives as well as engage the school and the community on proper sound chemicals and waste management.
“We will continue to raise public awareness on toxic chemicals in children’s products as part of our campaign for Toxic-Free and Waste-Free Schools. The protection of our children from toxic harm is their basic right,” the group said.
BAN Toxics is an independent non-government environmental organization that works for the advancement of environmental justice, health, chemical safety, and sound management of chemicals and wastes in schools, homes, and communities, with a special focus on women, children, and other marginalized sectors.