Several stationery and school supply shops in Hong Kong have seen a sharp rise in purchases of a foreign brand of erasers following the release of a Consumer Council report on Tuesday.
According to the report, 14 of the 25 samples of eraser brands sold in the city were found to have excessive levels of phthalate plasticizer, a chemical additive linked to serious health effects in humans, the Hong Kong Economic Journal said.
Studies have linked phthalate plasticizer to breast cancer and disruption of hormones that could lead to changes in the genitalia of male infants.
Levels of the substance in these brands exceeded the safety limit adopted in Taiwan, which is 0.1 percent of the weight of the eraser. One sample recorded 60.9 percent.
The only sample that has returned no traces of the chemical is from the German stationery brand Staedtler.
Following the release of the report, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, which operates two supermarket stores in Wan Chai and Mong Kok, said it has received bulk orders for Staedtler erasers from several schools.
The union said it has been in touch with suppliers to replenish its stock.
A stationery shop in Tai Po’s Wan Tau Tong Estate said Staedtler erasers are more expensive, ranging from HK$3 to HK$7 each.
However, all of the shop’s Staedtler erasers were sold out on Tuesday, following the release of the consumer watchdog’s report.
Isabel Chan, chairperson of the Federation of Parent-Teacher Associations, Kowloon City District, said the report has been widely shared among parents, which is most probably the reason for the sudden increase in the sales of Staedtler erasers.
A mother surnamed Poon said she is worried her daughter’s health might be put in jeopardy because of the plasticizer in the eraser she uses in school.
A father surnamed Chan said he would warn his children to avoid direct contact with erasers.
Lui Kam-keung, principal of San Wui Commercial Society School, said he would advise schoolchildren and their parents not to procure erasers found to have excessive levels of plasticizer.
Japanese brand Tombow said its erasers and other products are widely used in Japan.
According to the Consumer Council report, its erasers were found to have 37 percent content of the chemical substance.
The company said it will soon roll out three eraser products with zero content of the plasticizer to reassure parents and schoolchildren who are worried about health hazards.
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