Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje today advised the public, particularly those who are still on a shopping spree for gifts, to avoid products that have no proper labeling.

At the same time, Paje urged consumers to report to concerned government agencies products suspected to contain toxic or hazardous chemicals for appropriate action.

Paje made the statement amid reports that some cheap toys from China that have found their way into the local street markets have high lead content that could cause adverse effect on health.

“As parents, we have to be mindful of the gifts we give to our children. Life may be difficult, but still it is no reason to patronize toys that are cheap but dangerous to their health,” Paje said.

He urged parents and adults to avoid toys and other products that are still in the market despite reports that these contain either toxic or hazardous substances.

“I advise parents and other gift-givers to be extra-careful, and be updated on news reports. The government, the media and some well-meaning non-government organizations never fail to inform the public of their findings. There is no more reason for us to fall victim to unscrupulous business practices,” he said.

According to him, the DENR is in close coordination with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in ensuring that guidelines in product labeling for locally-manufactured toys and other consumer products are strictly followed.

He also announced that his agency is set to issue a directive that would regulate the importation and use of lead and lead compounds in the country.

“We will be issuing a chemical control order (CCO) for lead as soon as the Environmental Management Bureau EMB) finishes the public consultation process with various stakeholders, including affected small and medium enterprises, and inputs are collected and incorporated in the draft order,” Paje said.

The proposed CCO for lead and lead compounds will cover importation, distribution, manufacture and use of lead and lead compounds, as well as their storage, transport and disposal of wastes.

Lead is a heavy, bluish-gray metal either in the form of granules, shot, foil, sheet or powder. It is naturally occurring in the earth’s crust and is relatively poor as conductor of electricity. However, exposure to lead could be toxic to many organs and tissues, such as heart and kidneys and to the reproductive and nervous systems. Lead exposure among children could affect their learning ability and may cause behavioral disorders.

Childhood lead exposure can occur by way of ingestion of lead dust dislodged from deteriorated paint or leaded dust generated during remodeling or painting.

According to Paje, lead is used in the country as raw materials or additives in major industries, such as in the semiconductor sector, printing, smelting, recycling and soldering. Lead is also used in the manufacture of ammunitions, batteries, and paints and pigments.

He said that despite the presence of cheap alternatives, lead-based products such as paints are still widely used in bridges, ships, railways, lighthouses and other steel structures because it slows down rusting and corrosion of iron and steel.

Pending its issuance, Paje said the DENR is strictly monitoring registered industries, including paint manufacturers, to ensure compliance to earlier guidelines issued by the department such as DAO 2005-27 or the Revised Priority Chemical List (PCL) which requires all users, importers, and manufacturers of chemicals included in the list to comply with such requirements as submission of an Annual Report and Hazardous Wastes Registration Report.