EcoWaste Coalition finds lead in toy magnets for kids

A toxics watchdog group has advised consumers to be cautious when buying magnets for kids that may be coated with lead paint in violation of the law.

As part of its toy safety campaign ahead of the Christmas shopping spree, the EcoWaste Coalition rang the alarm bell over magnets of various shapes after detecting high levels of lead on their surface coatings.

Considered an educational tool as well as a toy, magnets can help in introducing science to young children in a fun way, while rousing their curiosity and helping them explore and improve on their coordination, fine motor and problem solving skills.

“Whether used for science experiments or for playing games, magnets, like any other products marketed for children’s use, must be safe from lead, which is toxic if ingested and can trigger negative health effects,” stated Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.  

“Some magnets, as shown in our investigation, are covered with lead paint that can chip, wear and deteriorate over time and get swallowed by young children through normal hand-to-mouth behavior,” he warned. 

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device, the group found six of the eight small magnets comprising the “ZRH Colour Magnet” set coated with lead paint.  The product, which provides no manufacturer’s information, is marked “made in China.”  Procured from a “presyong Divisoria” store in Paco, Manila for P70/set, the product is not notified with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Based on the group’s XRF analysis, the arrow-, bar-, heart-, star-, and U-shaped magnets were found to be decorated with lead paint in excess of the regulatory limit of 90 parts per million (ppm).  The round and triangular magnets screened negative for lead.

The yellow paint on the surface of the star-shaped magnet had 23,600 ppm of lead, while the red paint on the bar-, heart- and U-shaped magnets had 1,148 to 4,122 ppm.  The pink paint on the arrow-shaped magnet contained 1,012 ppm of lead.

The use of lead paint in the manufacture of toys and school supplies is prohibited under the DENR Administrative Order 2013-24, or the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.  As clarified through EMB Memorandum Circular 010, series of 2016, the ban on lead paint in the production of toys and related children’s products, including science kits, took effect after December 31, 2016.  

“Like what they did in the US early this year, we urge the authorities to cause the removal of non-compliant magnets from the market and ensure strict compliance to our country’s toy safety and labeling requirements, as well as lead paint regulation,” Dizon suggested.

Last February 2021, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled about 13,000 units of invention science kits containing lead painted magnets in violation of the federal lead paint ban.

According to the World Health Organization, “young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system.”

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