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Christmas toys and gifts test positive for lead

MANILA — Painted toys, glasses and mugs, which have become popular Christmas gifts because it is cheap, have tested positive for nasty chemicals known for damaging a child’s brain.

Thony Dizon, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect, made this announcement last Monday after subjecting 50 product samples to chemical analysis.

In the group’s blog (, Dizon said 64 percent or 32 of the 50 samples they have tested contain “mind-boggling amounts of toxic metals such as lead that are totally unacceptable for products meant to spread Christmas cheer.”

Toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio, a resource person of the EcoWaste Coalition, noted that such lead in consumer products could endanger human health especially among kids.

“Lead exposure can damage the brain, lower a child’s intelligence, decrease a child’s attention span and cause delays in a child’s speaking, reading and learning skills” added Antonio, who is also the President of the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology (PSCOT).

Dizon said painted drinking glasses and mugs top the list of “dirtiest” products with 14 out of the 16 glass samples laced with lead up to 44,400 parts per million (ppm), way above the 90-ppm threshold under the US Consumer Product Improvement Act of 2008.

“This shocking eye-opener is truly worrisome as lead in painted glassware comes in direct contact with a child’s mouth and posing a serious health risk,” Dizon said.

Aside from lead, many of the painted glasses and mugs were found to contain antimony, arsenic, cadmium and chromium above levels of concern and thus increasing the chances of multiple exposures to hazardous chemicals.

Sold from PhP20 to PhP100, painted glasses and mugs are among the favorite holiday gifts or give-away items because of their attractive designs, easy to wrap packaging and affordability.

In its latest investigation on the toxicity of children’s products in the market, the EcoWaste Coalition bought a variety of affordable toys and gift items from street vendors at Carriedo St. in Quiapo, Rizal Ave., Santa Cruz and Juan Luna St., Divisoria in the city of Manila.

The probe, conducted amid brisk sales of holiday goodies as Christmas nears, was also arranged to draw attention to the UN-recognized rights of children to health and safety as the “Universal Children’s Day” is observed on November 20.

The samples, mostly imported from China, were bought and tested for heavy metals last November 18 by Engr. Ramir Castro of QES (Manila), Inc. using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) chemical analyzer.

None of the products indicated toxic ingredients on their labels, which were generally incomplete or totally lacking.



The top 10 products, all painted glasses and mugs that registered the highest levels of lead were:

1. “Sloop Glass Collection” with giraffe (PhP100), 44,400 ppm
2. “Especially For You Glass” with bear and blue glass cover (PhP60), 34,300 ppm
3. “Angry Birds Glass” (PhP80), 32,900 ppm
4. An unbranded glass with flower design (PhP20), 32,800 ppm
5. “Angry Birds Glass” with sticker and spoon (PhP75), 30,600 ppm
6. “Love Life Angry Birds Cup” with orange glass cover (PhP60), 26,400ppm
7. An unbranded coffee mug with Santa Claus design (PhP50), 25,300 ppm
8. “Especially For You Glass” with Snoopy and red glass cover (PhP60), 23,700 ppm
9. “Angry Birds Coffee Mug” (PhP80), 22,300 ppm
10. An unbranded coffee mug with sheep design (PhP80), 20,700 ppm

Health experts have confirmed and warned that there is no safe threshold for lead exposure, especially for children whose minds and bodies are still developing.

Children are most vulnerable to being exposed to lead and other poisons due to their normal hand-to-mouth activities that cause the direct ingestion of health damaging substances.

“Given the practical limitations of our consumers and governmental authorities, we appeal to manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers and vendors not to market and sell toys and other Christmas gift items unless they have undergone rigorous testing and have been certified safe for children to play or use,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“Paint used to decorate glasses, mugs and other containers for food and beverage must be lead-free and food-safe,” it said.