The watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition in the Philippines is urging cyclists and bike mechanics to be wary of the health risks when using a glue for repairing punctured inner tubes as it may contain benzene, a carcinogenic (cancer-causing), mutagenic (can cause genetic mutations) and toxic (poisonous) substance.

The group issued its latest toxic alert after buying bike repair kits in Manila that come with various tools, patches for the inner tube and a glue bearing the name “Red Sun”. Tire repair kits containing the said glue are also sold online.

The label does not provide a list of the glue’s ingredients, but carries a hazard warning that says: “Harmful vapor. Harmful or fatal if swallowed. Extremely flammable. Contains petroleum distillate. Use under well-ventilated conditions.”

“Cyclists and bike mechanics should be aware of the health risks of being exposed to the glue containing benzene, toluene and other hazardous substances, which are harmful if inhaled, ingested or in contact with the skin,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“Retailers should cease and desist from selling tire repair kits containing this toxic glue,” the group suggested. “Manufacturers should replace benzene and other hazardous substances with non-toxic substitutes, and disclose the chemical ingredients on the product labels to inform and guide consumers,” it added.

As published in the European Union’s Safety Gate (the regional bloc’s rapid alert system for dangerous non-food products), regulatory authorities in Cyprus, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain have issued notifications withdrawing tire repair kits with Red Sun glue from the market for violation of EU’s chemical standards.

For example, in the notification by the Dutch government published in 2018, the glue reportedly contained benzene (measured value: 0.8% by weight) and toluene (measured value: 5.8% by weight). According to the authorities, “benzene may cause cancer and genetic defects, while toluene is suspected of damaging the fertility of the unborn child.”

Several notifications issued by the Spanish government between 2009 to 2017 also found excessive levels of chloroform, methylene chloride and 1,2 dichloroethane in recalled Red Sun glue.

Chloroform and methylene chloride, the authorities warned, are substances suspected of causing cancer, while 1,2 dichloroethane is carcinogenic and toxic if inhaled or if it gets in contact with the skin.

Also, notifications issued by the Spanish government in 2011 and 2013 found the Red Sun glue with benzene amounting to 60% to 77% by weight.

Aside from Red Sun glue, the EcoWaste Coalition drew attention to Gummilosung, Slime and Walfort glues, which the governments of Lithuania and the Netherlands recalled in 2020, 2021 and 2022 due to their toluene content measured at 83%, 89% and 95.3% by weight, respectively.

“Consumers are entitled to safe and adequately labeled products, including a listing of chemical ingredients present in a product,” the EcoWaste Coalition insisted.