Watchdog says toxic chemical in school supplies, presses gov't to act for children's health

June 6, 2010 11:47 am 

MANILA, June 6 — With the resumption of classes just around the corner, the EcoWaste Coalition sounded the alarm bell over the presence of di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or DEHP in school supplies that the group sent to the laboratory for analysis.

All five samples tested positive with DEHP, a suspected carcinogen, exceeding the US limit by nearly 200 times.

Watchdog Reveals Toxic Chemical in School Supplies, Presses Government to Act for Children's HealthWatchdog Reveals Toxic Chemical in School Supplies, Presses Government to Act for Children's HealthPhthalates (pronounced “THAL-ates”) are toxic industrial chemicals commonly used to make plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) more flexible, softer or durable.

Due to health concerns, the European Union and the United States have banned the use of some phthalates in plastic toys and childcare articles.

To draw consumer awareness about phthalates, the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and toxic watchdog, bought five typical PVC school supplies from popular stores in May 2010 and had them analyzed by a leading consumer product testing company for phthalates.

From the laboratory testing conducted by Intertek Testing Services Philippines from May 24-31, 2010, the results show that all five samples tested with high levels of DEHP.

The results show a green long plastic envelope had 19.881 per cent DEHP, a PVC plastic book cover 18.997 per cent DEHP, a PVC notebook cover 18.543 per cent DEHP, a PVC plastic lunch bag and a PVC bagpack both had 17.120 per cent DEHP.

The limit for DEHP and five other types of phthalates as per US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 is 0.1 percent.of any children's product for ages 12 and under.

“Our investigation proves the presence of elevated amounts of health-damaging phthalates in products commonly used by school-going Filipino kids.

In the interest of children’s health and safety, we urge the authorities to make a decisive policy action – based on the precautionary principle -against these toxic substances.

In the meantime, we advise parents to patronize school supplies that are PVC-free and invite them to join us in pushing for a strong regulation that will ban and safeguard our children from phthalates,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

“This is a disturbing discovery! Children are particularly vulnerable, as their reproductive systems are under development. Furthermore, DEHP is a suspected carcinogen. For these reasons, DEHP is prohibited in the EU in toys and childcare articles,” said Dr. Andreas Prevodnik, program officer on chemicals of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC).

According to the SSNC, a partner of the EcoWaste Coalition for its chemical safety work, DEHP is a developmental and reproductive toxicant in animals, and is believed to have similar effects in humans.

DEHP has effects similar to the female hormone oestrogene. Several scientific studies have found a connection between impaired male fertility and exposure to DEHP.

“First of all, the use of PVC plastics, which requires plasticizers such as phthalates, should be restricted, not the least in products intended for children. When it comes to chemicals, the SSNC also always refers to the precautionary principle.

If less harmful alternatives are available, these should substitute the more harmful. A number of alternative plasticizers that appear to be less harmful than DEHP are available,” Prevodnik pointed out.

In December 2005, the European Parliament, guided by the precautionary principle, voted to ban the use of three phthalates (DEHP, dibutyl phthalate or DBP and butylbenzyl phthalate or BBP) and restrict the use of another three phthalates (di-iso nonyl phthalate or DINP, di-iso-decyl phthalate or DIDP and di-n-octyl phthalate or DNOP) in plastic toys and childcare articles, without ge-limitations.

In July 2008, the U.S. Congress enacted the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act that, among others, banned six phthalates (DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP and DNOP) from children’s toys and cosmetics.

Beginning March 2010, Australia adopted an interim 18-month ban on products containing more than 1 per cent DEHP by weight for toys, childcare articles and eating vessels for use by children up to three years old.

During the 14th Congress, Senator Lito Lapid proposed a resolution banning phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products, while Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and her son Representative Narciso Santiago III filed bills promoting phthalate-free toys. (PNA) LOR/PR/jsd

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