Heavy metal content spotted in gift purchases

Updated: 2011-12-15 06:57

By Fan Feifei (HK Edition)

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Greenpeace reported on Wednesday that 39 percent of Christmas gift items the group examined contained lead exceeding limitations set by an American standard.

The United States Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), introduced in 2008, sets 90 parts per million (ppm) as the upper limit for the heavy metal content in daily goods.

The organization tested lead in 57 randomly selected Christmas presents this week. The gifts were bought from local markets, including jewelry, accessories, photo frames, mobile phone cases, and wallets.

Greenpeace said while nearly 39 percent of samples contained an excess of lead, the content of other heavy metals, such as cadmium and zinc, also failed to meet the standard.

It found a mobile phone accessory contained the highest-level lead, 115,971 ppm, which is 1,287 times higher than the limit. A pair of earrings had more than 90,000 ppm of lead, meaning that 9 percent of the material was lead.

"Lead is a known neurotoxin. It will affect the nervous system, especially for children, because their nervous system is developing. Even a minor content of lead can be harmful," said Ada Kong, campaigner of Greenpeace.

"Lead can be accumulated in human body, effecting fertility and increasing the risk of hypertension for adults," said Kong.

Greenpeace said the excess content of the heavy metal reflects the negligence of government supervision and management over toxic chemicals.

Joe DiGangi, who was responsible for the test, said that lead and other toxic heavy metals should not be present in most goods for daily uses, urging manufactures to turn to non-toxic materials.

DiGangi comes from International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), an NGO network dedicated to eliminating organic pollutants worldwide.

Greenpeace said the current Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance only indicates whether the chemical composition in general consumer goods is safe or not, it does not fix quantitative standards like the CPSIA.

"It is unable to identify toxic chemicals in goods for sale, with the naked eye. So the government should formulate strict regulations for toxic chemicals in consumer goods to guarantee public health," said Kong.

Terry Wong, a spokeswoman from Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, said the bureau is greatly concerned about the Greenpeace test results, assuring that the department will do its best to ensure that products sold in Hong Kong conform with safety standards.

She said if the goods have a potential risk for consumers, the manufacturers, importers and suppliers should add safety labels on the goods to ensure the replacement and use is in line with general safety requirements.

She said the department also refers to consumer goods safety regulations in other developed countries.

The customs will follow up the complaints about the unsafe consumer goods and vigorously check the products in the market from time to time and hand the sample products to the Government Laboratory for examination, added the spokeswoman.


China Daily

(HK Edition 12/15/2011 page1)