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Science and Environment

Fridge magnets not as safe as they look

Rhodina Villanueva - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The EcoWaste Coalition has warned the public that cute refrigerator magnets and cord holders for e-gadgets may pose hazards to health and safety.

The environmental watchdog group found brightly painted animal fridge magnets and cartoon-embellished cord holders positive for lead, a toxic chemical added to some paints and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics.

The group’s advisory was in line with the global observance of World Consumer Rights Day on March 15. It was issued to promote public awareness on the rights of consumers to product information and safety.

EcoWaste recently purchased six samples of refrigerator magnets worth P10 each and 15 samples of cord holders worth P35 each from street vendors in Divisoria, Manila and had them screened for toxic metals.

As per chemical screening using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the group found all six samples of paint-coated animal magnets positive for lead up to 18,100 ppm, way above the 90 ppm limit for lead in decorative paints.

The group also detected lead up to 5,616 ppm in all but one of the 15 samples of PVC cord holders.

Thony Dizon, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect, said “the colorful animal figures attached to round magnets are individually packed in clear plastic and carried no labeling details, depriving consumers of their right to basic product information.”

None of the products indicated lead as an active ingredient. Lead is a chemical poison that can harm the brain and the central nervous system and damage other body organs, with children under six most at risk.

“The absence of such essential information about the product and their chemical composition goes against the consumer interest as guaranteed under Republic Act 7394 or the Consumer Act of the Philippines. Consumers should and must insist on their right to know,” Dizon stressed.

“While the refrigerator magnets and the cord holders are not meant to be used as toys, they could easily pass as toys to imaginative and playful children. Kids will find these items very attractive and innocently play, bite and chew on them, directly exposing them to lead hazard via ingestion,” he said.

Dizon added the most common way for children to ingest lead is through lead-containing dust and soil that get into their hands and mouths.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “the most critical consequence of low level lead toxicity in utero and during childhood is damage to the developing brain and nervous system.”

Some of the consequences of brain injury  from exposure to lead in early life, according to the WHO, are loss of intelligence, shortening of attention span and disruptive behavior.

Aside from lead exposure hazard, the sampled refrigerator magnets and cord holders may also pose choking hazard. The magnets, for example, are not securely attached and can be easily swallowed by children, EcoWaste Coalition warned.

The group added, “To prevent lead exposure and choking hazard, we advise those who have already bought such items to keep them out of children’s sight and reach.”

CONSUMER ACT OF THE PHILIPPINES

DIZON

LEAD

MAGNETS

PROJECT PROTECT

REPUBLIC ACT

THONY DIZON

WORLD CONSUMER RIGHTS DAY

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION

X-RAY FLUORESCENCE

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