By Chito Chavez
EcoWaste Coalition has warned the public specifically the “luck seekers” from purchasing Feng Shui charms and amulets that are laced with dangerous levels of cadmium and lead, two highly hazardous chemicals.
EcoWaste issued the caution as many Filipinos are known to rush to stores and purchase their luck activators and enhancers in celebration of the Chinese New Year.
Over the weekend, EcoWaste purchased 20 assorted lucky charms and amulets — which cost from P25 to P300 — from retailers in Binondo and Quiapo and had them screened for toxic metals using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical instrument.
“Some lucky charms and amulets that are supposed to attract energy, health, fortune, and happiness are unluckily contaminated with cadmium and lead, two highly hazardous substances that belong to the WHO’s list of 10 chemicals of major public health concern,” said Chemical Safety Campaigner Thony Dizon of EcoWaste Coalition.
Out of the 20 items, 15 were found to be contaminated with excessive levels of lead and cadmium way above the 90 parts per million (ppm) limit for lead in paint under Philippine and US laws, and 100 ppm limit for cadmium in jewelry under the European Union regulation.
EcoWaste discovered that cadmium amounting to 1,906 to 293,000 ppm was detected in the pendants adorning four red fabric bracelets and steel chain necklaces while lead ranging from 1,324 to 57,300 ppm was discovered in 11 lead-painted lucky charms and amulets.
“Cadmium and lead, which can accumulate in the body and damage human health, should not be present in consumer products, especially for items that are supposed to enhance good health and a better life,” Dizon said.
Among the worst samples found by the group was a stainless steel necklace with a pig pendant that has 293,000 ppm of cadmium, and a red fabric bracelet with a pig adornment that has 238,800 ppm of cadmium.
“Five lucky objects” that promise to yield five blessings (longevity, wealth, peace, wisdom, and righteousness) were among those heavily laden with lead: A holy gourd with 57,300 ppm of lead; dragon, 52,500 ppm; lotus flower, 22,000 ppm; wind horse, 20,300 ppm; and three-legged frog with 19,500 ppm of lead. A lucky peach trinket was also found to contain 56,300 ppm of lead,’’ EcoWaste noted.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lead “is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.”
It added that lead exposure among children even at low levels can interrupt and damage brain development and cause lifelong learning and behavioral problems, while exposure among adults can bring about miscarriage in women, reduced sperm count in men, hypertension, and other health issues.
To protect children, women, and workers from lead exposure, the Philippines took a globally-recognized move to phase out lead-containing decorative paints in 2016 and is currently on the way to eliminating lead in industrial paints this year.
Cadmium is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as “carcinogenic to humans,” and is also recognized as a reproductive and developmental toxin associated with reduced birth weight, premature birth, stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, and birth defects in humans, as well with behavioral and learning disabilities.
Instead of cadmium and lead-laden lucky charms and amulets, EcoWaste advised luck seekers to go for the tried-and-tested formula to attract health, fortune, and happiness: healthful lifestyle, positive relationships with fellow beings and the environment, “sipag at tiyaga” (hard work and perseverance), prayers, and good deeds.