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Eco group says toxic chemicals found in mugs with religious images

April 2, 2012 4:00pm
Summer bargain hunters were warned Sunday against buying some cheap items at ukay-ukay and surplus stores, after some of the products were found to contain toxic chemicals.
EcoWaste Coalition said these included personal and household items from abroad, and sold from P20 to P90 each.
“Our investigation shows that certain dinnerware contains alarming amounts of lead and cadmium that can potentially leach and cause long-term health risks. None of these products indicate that they are made with lead or cadmium glazes or paints,” Aileen Lucero of the group's Project PROTECT said.
Among the "toxic" items were three “Made in China” mugs with religious images of a resurrected Jesus Christ, “Our Lady of Sorrows” and “Our Mother of Perpetual Help” that were found to contain high levels of cadmium, a potential human carcinogen, ranging from 136 to 2,051 ppm.
"Products used for eating and drinking simply should not contain any lead or other toxic metals as there really is no safe level of exposure for these substances, especially for a young child," said Lucero.
From March 27 to 29, the group bought 35 mugs, plates and bowls from 10 ukay-ukay and surplus retailers in Caloocan, Manila and Quezon Cities. EcoWaste said the items were produced in China, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan and the US, and sold from P20 to P90. Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, the group tested the samples last March 30.
All the 35 tested samples had toxic metals above levels of concern, including 23 samples with lead, a potent neurotoxin, up to over 100,000 parts per million (ppm), and 19 samples with cadmium, a probable cancer-causing agent, up to 3,791 ppm, exceeding the US regulatory limit of 90 ppm for lead and 75 ppm for cadmium in consumer products.
“We also detected other chemicals of concern in the samples, including antimony, arsenic, chromium and, in some cases, traces of mercury,” Lucero said.
Two samples, a plate and a cup, had lead that exceeds 100,000 ppm, which is beyond the XRF calibration unit.
A small blue cup with a floral design registered over 100,000 ppm, the highest amount of lead found among the mugs. This item, which was supposedly made in Mexico, was bought from an ukay-ukay shop in Santa Cruz, Manila that sells used items from Japan and USA.
From the tested dinnerware, the item with the highest level of lead was a white and yellow “Stangl” plate from New Jersey, with over 100,000 ppm. It was purchased from an ukay-ukay shop in Cubao, Quezon City that sells second-hand products from USA.
Other top ukay-ukay items with elevated levels of lead include a beige and gold bowl with 47,700 ppm, a “Halloween” mug with 36,300 ppm, a yellow bowl with floral design with 32,900 ppm, a hand-painted plate with 30,100 ppm, and a coffee mug decorated with a cartoon strip with 20,700 ppm.
EcoWaste said the samples were procured between March 27 to 29 from five stores in Metro Manila.
Lucero said consumers “should always be nosy and insist on product safety information before heading to the cashier to pay for your purchase. In fact, a safety-conscious consumer should demand information regardless of where the product is bought.” 
At the same time, she added store owners and vendors should also do their part. "Retailers who care for the health and safety of their customers should immediately take the tainted items off their stores," Lucero said.
Exposure to lead
According to the group, exposure to lead has many harmful effects such as reproductive, developmental, behavioral and neurological disorders, including birth defects, attention deficit disorder, decreased intelligence, language and speech problems, as well as poor muscle coordination, high blood pressure, and damage to the brain and the kidneys.
These toxic metals can migrate out of these containers resulting to chronic poisoning due to repeated contact between the tainted vessel and the beverage or food a person consumes, the group said.
There are also harmful effects on the environment, as lead or cadmium-based glasses and ceramics can reach and contaminate the waste stream, leaching their toxic components onto the ground and surface water and the environment, the group added. –CGL/KG, GMA News
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