A dragon charm, a “Wu Lo amulet” with “Medicine Buddha” mantra for good health, and a novelty refrigerator magnet were among the “dangerous and not lucky charms” that are widely sold for the celebration of the Chinese New Year.
EcoWaste Coalition, an anti-toxic watchdog for chemical safety and zero waste, said public safety must be upheld to protect consumers, said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“Ironically, many Filipinos unsuspectingly buy such potentially dangerous lucky charms and amulets for good health and for long, trouble-free life,” he said.
The coalition over the weekend bought 20 Chinese New Year items for toxicity screening on a portable X-Ray-Fluorescence (XRF) device.
The samples worth P20 to P250 each, were bought from specialty stores and sidewalk vendors in Binondo and Quiapo.
At least 13 of the 20 samples were found to contain elevated quantities of lead, arsenic and chromium, 3 had high levels of antimony and 1 had excessive amount of cadmium , the EcoWaste Coalition reported.
Arsenic, cadmium and lead are among the “top ten chemicals of major public health concern” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Dizon said exposure to heavy metals has been associated with a range of health issues from reproductive disorders, birth defects, developmental delays, hormonal imbalances, heart ailments, neurological problems to cancers.
“None of the items analyzed had complete product labeling information, including chemical information to warn buyers of possible chemical hazards,” he said.
He attributed the toxicity of most samples to the use of leaded paint, particularly on the yellow coatings with lead exceeding the 90 parts per million (ppm) limit for lead in paint and surface coatings under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.
He noted that all the items with high levels of lead also had high levels of arsenic and chromium.
“While not originally made for children’s use, it’s not improbable for lucky charms and amulets to get into the hands of a curious kid who may bite, mouth or even accidentally ingest the toxic items, some which, like the lucky coins, are small enough to be swallowed,” he said.