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Consumers cautioned against toxic lucky charms ahead of Chinese New Year celebration


A non-profit organization tracking toxic chemicals in products and wastes cautioned consumers against luck activators or charms containing dangerous concentrations of cadmium, a heavy metal with symbol Cd and atomic number 48.

The EcoWaste Coalition released a precautionary warning against the purchase of cadmium-containing lucky charms ahead of the celebration, albeit low-key, of the Chinese New Year beginning on February 12 due to the continuing risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Despite the subdued celebration this year because of the pandemic, the group is concerned that luck seekers will still visit specialty stores or shop online to obtain a few lucky charms to enhance good health and fortune during the Year of the Metal Ox.

“We caution consumers from buying and wearing lucky bracelets with ox components that are often made of cadmium alloy,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Cadmium belongs to the Priority Chemicals List (PCL), or those chemicals that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau has determined to pose unreasonable risk to public health, workplace and the environment. Globally, cadmium is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”

Out of 12 ox-inspired lucky bracelets sold from P35 to P250 per piece that the group purchased from retailers in Quiapo, Manila, seven were found to contain elevated levels of cadmium ranging from 118,500 to 287,800 parts per million (ppm) based on X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) screening results.

“These products would be illegal to sell in Europe, which prohibits cadmium equal to or greater than 100 ppm in jewelry,” said Dizon, “due to the concern that children could be exposed to this toxic chemical through skin or oral contact with such jewelry.”

According to the Rapid Alert System for Non-Food Products (RAPEX), European Union governments had banned or withdrawn from the market jewelries and fashion accessories for containing cadmium described by the authorities as “harmful to human health because it accumulates in the body, can damage organs and it may cause cancer.”

“As the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of lucky charms are not regulated, we advise consumers to exercise their legal rights, including their rights to information, product safety and redress, when making a purchase of lucky charms in retail stores or from online dealers,” Dizon said.

Cadmium is classified as “carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). It is also known 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.

In 2016, the EcoWaste Coalition requested the DENR-EMB to draw up a Chemical Control Order (CCO) for cadmium and its compounds after detecting high levels of cadmium in some cosmetics, electronic goods, jewelry, toys and plastics, particularly tarpaulin materials.

“We believe that a CCO is urgently needed to prohibit, limit or regulate the use of cadmium, particularly in the production of certain products that could expose the public from preventable sources of cadmium exposure, or pollute the environment with cadmium through unsafe disposal practices,” the group pointed out.

The DENR-EMB has released a draft CCO for public comments in 2018 that has yet to be signed and promulgated as of this writing.