EcoWaste says that some plastic school materials highly toxic

A waste and pollution watchdog advised Sunday the public to be wary of buying school supplies made of plastic after monitoring high levels of a hazardous organic compound as well as toxic chemicals in a number of them.

EcoWaste Coalition bought five school supplies with typical PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a toxic industrial chemical commonly used to make plastics, from bookstores last month and had it analyzed by a consumer product testing company for phthalates.

Phthalates are toxic industrial chemicals commonly used to make plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) more flexible, softer or durable.

”Our investigation proves the presence of elevated amounts of health-damaging phthalates in products commonly used by school-going Filipino kids,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalitions Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

From the laboratory testing conducted by Intertek Testing Services Philippines last May 24 to 31, the results show that all five samples tested with high levels of suspected carcinogen DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate), exceeding the US standard by more than 200 times.

A carcinogen, Wikipedia explains, is ”an agent directly involved in the exacerbation of cancer or in the increase of its propagation.”

The lab results showed a green long plastic envelope had 19.881 percent DEHP; a PVC plastic book cover 18.997 percent DEHP; and a PVC notebook cover 18.543 percent DEHP. EcoWaste noted that the three items were unbranded.

But also found with high DEHP content were a Dora plastic lunch bag and a Dora backpack, both with 17.120 percent DEHP, EcoWaste said.

”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,” Lucero said.

”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,” she added.

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

EcoWaste cited that the limit for DEHP, an organic compound, 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 below.

”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).

”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.

During the 14th Congress, Senator Lito Lapid proposed a resolution banning phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products, while Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Alliance for Rural Concerns (ARC) party-list Rep. Narciso Santiago III filed bills promoting phthalate-free toys. (Ellalyn B. De Vera)

(Read more on Manila Bulletin and Yahoo! Philippines News)

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