Chinese electric lanterns sold on Luong Nhu Hoc Street, Ho Chi Minh City, are attractive to children but may contain carcinogenic cadmium.
Tests have found a high level of cancer-causing cadmium in Chinese plastic electric lanterns sold widely in Vietnam for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival.
The metal content was found to be 123 times higher than the amount permitted in toys in Vietnam, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper has reported.
The lanterns are colorful and range from a ball producing music to birds flapping their wings, and are irresistible to children, who prefer them to Vietnamese paper and bamboo lanterns.
People had no reason to think anything was amiss since they cost as much as VND70,000 (US$3.3) a piece and come with origin and importers' tags.
But a recent test on two lanterns, taken randomly from Ho Chi Minh City street and a supermarket, should warn them, experts from the Institute of Applied Material Science and the Institute of Chemical Technology said.
The former's Tran Ngoc Quyen said the tests found a large amount of cadmium -- 7,390 micrograms per kilogram against a permitted 60 micrograms -- on their coats, he said.
Cadmium weakens useful metals such as calcium, zinc, and iron that help form micronutrients and biochemical enzymes in humans, he said.
Thus it can cause lung and prostate cancers, anemia, osteoporosis which weakens bones, and several congenital defects.
"The danger is that children will be affected by just touching the lanterns' coat, and do not have to bite or put it in their mouths," he said.
The World Health Organization sets the safe amount of cadmium at 20-40 micrograms a day for adults.
Tests found the plastic beneath the lanterns' coat to be safe, though it was recycled plastic and the tags did not indicate that.
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