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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Toxics watchdog finds cancer-causing cadmium in Chinese New Year lucky charms

A Philippines-based non-profit organisation tracking harmful chemicals in products and wastes has cautioned consumers against buying lucky bracelets that are believed to attract good luck during the Year of the Water Tiger.

Lucky bracelets
The lucky bracelets

The EcoWaste Coalition issued the precautionary warning after analysing red string and beaded bracelets adorned with a tiger figure that the group purchased from vendors in Binondo and Quiapo, Manila for P50 to P250 each.

Cadmium, a toxic metal with symbol Cd and atomic number 48, is said to be detrimental to human health because it builds up in the body, harms organs and causes cancer.  Cadmium is on the World Health Organisation’s list of “ten chemicals of public health concern,” along with other heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury.

“Be extra careful when buying lucky bracelets as some of them may contain metal tiger components that are often made of cadmium alloy,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Consumers need not wear lucky charms containing poison chemicals like cadmium to enhance their health, love life, study, career and fortune,” he said. “Consumers risked being exposed to cadmium through dermal contact or licking.”

Dizon further warned that it is also possible for these lucky charms to get into children’s hands or mouths.

“Children can be exposed to cadmium, especially if the cadmium-laden tiger is sucked by a child or if it is detached from the bracelet and is swallowed by a child,” he said.

Instead of toxic lucky charms, the EcoWaste Coalition advised luck seekers to go for time-honoured recipes for good health, fortune and happiness such as healthy lifestyle, hard work, earnest prayers, and kind deeds.

Out of nine samples of lucky bracelets, the group detected excessive levels of cadmium in eight items. Of these eight samples, one had 5,800 parts per million (ppm) of cadmium and the seven other samples had cadmium in the range of 139,900 to 389,900 ppm.

For reference, the European Union restricts cadmium in the metal parts of jewelry and imitation jewelry at 0.01 percent by weight or 100 ppm. An advanced Olympus Vanta M Series X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyser was used to screen the samples for cadmium.

“These lucky bracelets would be illegal to sell in Europe due to their excessive cadmium content,” Dizon pointed out.

Cadmium is included in the Philippines government’s Priority Chemicals List (PCL) consisting of chemicals that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has determined to pose unreasonable risk to public health, workplace and the environment.

On May  6, 2021, the DENR issued a chemical control order (CCO) for cadmium and its compounds. While cadmium in products such as jewelry is not within its scope, “in view of the health and environmental effects of cadmium, the use of products not containing cadmium is encouraged,” the CCO said.

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