The EcoWaste Coalition, an organization campaigning for children’s safety against toxins in commerce and the environment, raised this question after finding excessive levels of lead and other hazardous substances in consumer products emblazoned with cartoon figures.
“The use of popular cartoon figures in these toxic products to entice consumers to buy such products for their kids is deceptive and dangerous and buyers should be forewarned ,” said Thony Dizon,
Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“It’s deceptive because it exploits children’s credulity and misleads both adults and kids into believing that a product is suitable for children by using cartoons to conceal their toxic components,” he said.
“It’s dangerous because many of these toxic ingredients are capable of causing permanent damage to the health of a hapless child,” he added.
In anticipation of the Christmas gift-giving tradition, the group went to Divisoria, Manila on December 6 and 7 to buy 40 popular gift items decorated with images of cartoon characters that kids love and adore.
The gift items, costing P10 to P100 each, were subsequently screened for toxic metals with the aid of a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device.
The XRF screening revealed that:
Out of 40 samples, 35 were found loaded with one or more toxic metals with lead present in 33 samples above the US limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) for lead in paint and surface coatings.
The samples featured popular cartoon figures such as “Batman,” “Ben 10,” “Cars,” “Despicable Me” minions, “Dora,” “Doraemon,” “Hello Kitty,” “Mickey Mouse,” “Minnie Mouse,” “Pikachu,” “Princess,” “Ruto,” “Spiderman,” “SpongeBob Squarepants,” “Thomas and Friends,” “Tinkerbell,”
“Winnie the Pooh,” and “Woody Woodpecker.”
Lead is globally recognized for its toxicity even at low doses and lead exposure has been blamed for various health problems such as neurological disorders, reproductive abnormalities, cardiovascular
diseases and diminished intelligence, to name a few, the EcoWaste Coalition said.
Out of 10 toys with cartoon images, all had lead with a “SpongeBob Squarepants” boxing gloves having 9,356 ppm. A “Pikachu Pocket Bola” had 5,165 ppm lead, while a “Ben 10” wrist strap had 3,257 ppm lead.
Out of 10 kiddie bags with cartoon creatures, six had lead with a “Despicable Me” bag having 3,839 ppm. Another “Despicable Me” bag had 3,022 ppm lead, while a “Dora” bag had 2,741 ppm lead.
Out of 10 plastic slippers with cartoon designs, seven had lead with a “Hello Kitty” pair of baby slippers having 3,106 ppm. A “Mickey Mouse” slipper had 2,271 ppm lead, while a “Cars” sticker had 2,130 ppm lead.
Out of 10 gift mugs with cartoon characters, all had lead with a pink “Hello Kitty” mug having 38,200 ppm. A “SpongeBob Squarepants” mug had 24,200 ppm lead, while a”Mickey Mouse” mug had 23,400 ppm lead.
Other chemicals detected in many of the samples were antimony, arsenic, cadmium and chromium.
To avoid buying unsafe toys, the EcoWaste Coalition reminded consumers to habitually read product labels and to seek information about their chemical ingredients.
The group further reminded consumers to look for the manufacturer’s License to Operate (LTO) number on the label, which can serve as an indicator that the product is compliant with the documentary requirements under the Department of Health’s Administrative Order 2007-32.
DOH A.O. 2007-32 requires all locally produced and imported toys to state the following on their labels: a duly registered name and trademark, a model reference number, the name of the manufacturer or distributor, and the place, country and year of manufacture, as well as warnings and precautionary indications.