The EcoWaste Coalition today urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban plastic balloon blowing kits containing benzene and other harmful substances to protect children from the adverse health effects of such cheap but dangerous play things.
The non-profit toxics watch group made the suggestion following the issuance of FDA Advisory No. 2018-152 warning the public about the dangers of using unnotified or unregistered plastic balloon blowing kits, including the risks of inhaling benzene or acetone vapor, lead poisoning, skin laceration and choking.
The group pointed out that two chemicals – benzene and lead – cited in the said FDA advisory are among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” as per the World Health Organization (WHO).
“The FDA’s public health warning on plastic balloon blowing kits is very important but not enough to protect young children from toxic chemical exposure and other preventable hazards,” observed Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Products intended for children’s use such as toys should be totally safe. Flammable chemicals such as acetone and benzene, and hazardous substances that can cause cancer like benzene or damage the brain like lead should not be part of any child’s toy and should be banned and withdrawn from the market,” he emphasized.
Test buys conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition on May 10 in Manila and Quezon Cities indicate plastic balloon blowing kits – comprised of solvent mixture in metal tube with accompanying straw – are sold for as low as P1 to P5 per set at public markets and sari-sari stores outside public schools.
All the 25 purchased items are not registered with the FDA, provide no list of chemical ingredients, and lack the mandatory labeling requirements as per Republic Act 10620, or the Toy and Game Safety Labeling Act of 2013.
In recommending the prohibition on benzene-containing plastic balloon blowing kits, the EcoWaste Coalition cited the ban in Canada that has been in effect since 1973 because “the safety concern is that blowing the balloons exposes a child to inhaling the vapors of any solvents present.”
According to Health Canada, “children can be fascinated with these products, and if they blow balloons for extended periods they may experience early symptoms of central nervous system depression or dysfunction, including euphoria, hallucinations, dizziness, and difficulties with coordination of voluntary movements. Prolonged exposure can lead to more serious symptoms including muscular twitching, unconsciousness, and coma.”
WHO warned “human exposure to benzene has been associated with a range of acute and long-term adverse health effects and diseases, including cancer and aplastic anaemia.”
While, “children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relative low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage,” the WHO said.