The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised the public yesterday to buy school supplies only from reputable vendors and those that are properly labeled.
The FDA issued the advisory after the environment group Eco-waste Coalition announced that it found toxic chemicals in school supplies bought from street vendors and bargain stalls in Divisoria and from a bookstore.
The coalition urged the public to be careful when buying school supplies as it found chemicals above levels of concern in nine of 25 school supplies it had tested.
Using handheld x-ray fluorescent device, Ecowaste tested the samples for heavy metals including lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury.
It found that the amount of lead in eight of the nine samples exceeded 90 parts per million (ppm) limit in children’s products based on the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
The US law said all children’s products “must not contain more than 100 parts per million (ppm) of total lead content in accessible parts” and must not contain lead concentration of 90 ppm in paint and other surface coatings.
Ecowaste said the levels of lead in the samples ranged from 229 ppm to 3,863 ppm. It said that in one sample, it found the presence of cadmium at 443 ppm.
The products containing high amount of chemicals were raincoats, water canteens, plastic envelopes, pencil cases and school shoes.
Lulu Santiago, head of FDA’s Laboratory Services Division, said the public should buy school supplies only from reputable retailers. She said consumers should also buy products that are properly labeled.
She said the FDA’s focus is on pencils, crayons and erasers. The FDA’s Product Services Division does sampling and monitoring of products.
She said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) also conducts tests for product safety.
Santiago also advised parents to teach their children on the proper handling of products as their misuse may affect their health. She said for toys, the FDA sets the limit of 90 ppm for lead.
The FDA regulates the manufacturing of products including the issuance of certificate of product registration and license to operate, Santiago said.
Aileen Lucero of Ecowaste’s Project Protect said, “Lead in school supplies is a real threat to our children’s health as lead can be released as toxic flake, chip or dust as the products age and deteriorate.”
Lucero added that it’s good news that out of the 25 samples that they tested, “we found non-detectable levels of lead in 16 products, indicating the availability of products with low or no lead in the market. However, it will be extremely difficult for consumers to determine which products are really okay because of inadequate product safety certification and labeling.”
By JONATHAN M. HICAP