Toxic Pasalubong: Dangerous Chemicals Found in Souvenirs Being Sold To Tourists in the Philippines

Toxic Souvenirs Being Sold to Philippine Tourists

According to one environment watchdog group, high levels of toxic metals (including lead) can be found in many gifts and souvenirs that are being sold to tourists in the Philippines. 

That group, Ecowaste Coalition, tested hundreds of products and found dangerous chemicals in many products in the cities of Manila, Davao, Cebu, and Baguio.

EcoWaste, which promotes zero waste and chemical safety, said the hazardous products included ballpens, cellphone trinkets, coin purses, fridge magnets, key chains, pen or pencil holders, shot glasses, toy ukuleles and wall decor. Most of the items were being sold for up to P180 each (or about $3.50 USD), and all were being marketed to tourists.

Many of the items tested showed high levels of lead, and other toxic metals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and mercury. All of these are in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of 10 chemicals of major public health concern.

According to Ecowaste, lead and its compounds can cause irreversible brain and nervous system damage, reduced intelligence, learning disabilities and behavioral problems. Cadmium, on the other hand, can adversely affect the kidneys and the human skeleton.

Tourists are being advised to exercise caution when buying from local vendors, and to ask questions.

Meanwhile, Ecowaste is appealing to souvenir makers to start using lead-free paint, and to properly label their products. They are also urging the government to prohibit the use of lead and other toxic metals, and educate the public on the hazards of exposure to toxic chemicals.
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