Consumers should be careful when purchasing magnets for children since they may be coated with lead paint, which is illegal, a toxics watchdog group warned.

The EcoWaste Coalition, as part of its toy safety campaign ahead of the Christmas shopping season, issued a warning about magnets of different shapes after finding high amounts of lead on their surface coatings.

Magnets, which may be used as both an educational tool and a toy, can be used to introduce science to young children in a fun manner, pique their interest, and help them explore and develop their coordination, fine motor, and problem-solving abilities.

“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.”