Toxics watchgroup warns ARMY vs buying hazardous BTS-inspired merch

Published November 17, 2021, 1:21 PM

by Joseph Pedrajas

A toxics watchdog group has warned the public against some Korean boyband BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan) merchandise being sold in the market despite containing heavy metals.

EcoWaste Coalition said Wednesday, Nov. 17, that these products “should not be sold to the ARMY, the band’s huge fanbase” as they may pose health risks.

The group is referring to several BTS-inspired merchandise, such as tumbler and hand sanitizer holders, containing high amounts of cadmium and lead that are being sold from P30 to P489 each in various stores in Makati, Mandaluyong and Manila.

EcoWaste Coalition/MANILA BULLETIN

From the 12 unofficial BTS merchandise that EcoWaste bought for test buys, two were found to contain cadmium and lead above the regulatory limits. The two heavy metals belong to the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” of the World Health Organization (WHO), which may affect the body’s central nervous system and skeletal and respiratory systems.

Using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the group detected over 4,000 parts per million (ppm) of lead on the yellow paint of a stainless steel water container featuring Chimmy, which is way in excess of the 90 ppm total lead content limit enforced in the Philippines, USA and other countries.

The product is labeled as “created by BTS,” but it has no manufacturer’s markings.

The Tata character attached to an orange hand sanitizer gel holder was also found to contain 410 ppm of cadmium, which is beyond the European Union’s 100 ppm limit for cadmium in plastics. The product is not labeled at all.

EcoWaste Coalition/MANILA BULLETIN

“The reusable water container with Chimmy character is very concerning as its leaded surface coating will likely deteriorate and chip with frequent use,” Thony Dizon, the group’s chemical safety campaigner, said.

“The lead on the paint may end up being ingested by the user, especially by a child who is unaware of the health risk,” he added.

Meanwhile, toxic metals were not detected from the other 10 samples, including a BT21 coin purse, BTS baller, BTS ballpen, Chimmy luggage tag, Cooky pop socket, Mang air bag holder, RJ keychain, Shooky button pin, Shooky cell phone protector and Tata bag tag.

EcoWaste Coalition/MANILA BULLETIN

But Dizon said they “cannot say with certainty if these 10 samples are safe from other hazardous substances.”

“As some of them are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, laboratory analysis is needed to determine if they do not contain endocrine disrupting chemicals called phthalates, which are plasticizers added to PVC to make it softer and bendable,” he added.

The group already notified the Weverse Shop Customer Service about its findings. Weverse sells official merchandise, albums and the like from artists like BTS to their fans across the globe.

“As trade in imitation BTS character products will likely remain so, we ask consumers, particularly their fans, to be vigilant to avoid items that may look cute and harmless, but covertly toxic,” the group added.