EcoWaste Coalition Finds Brain Damaging, Cancer-Causing Chemicals in 60 Out of 100 Toys

A toxics watchdog has revealed the presence of brain damaging as well as cancer-causing chemicals in a huge number of toys that it has procured and tested for heavy metals.

Coinciding with the observance of the National Children’s Month and the National Consumer Protection Month, the EcoWaste Coalition analyzed 100 assorted toys to verify if any of the samples poses health risks to children.

At a press conference held in Quezon City, the group, together with invited health experts from the Philippines and USA, disclosed their findings, providing fresh basis for their heightened call for concerted government, industry and consumer action to prevent and reduce children’s exposure to dangerous chemicals.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s latest exposé occurs in the wake of the recent approval on second reading of House Bill 6552, the “Safe and Non-Toxic Children’s Product Act of 2012,” that seeks “toregulate the importation, manufacture, sale and distribution of children’s toys, school supplies, childcare articles and other related products containing toxic chemicals.”

The toxic chemicals referred to in the legislative bill include, but are not limited to, the priority chemicals covered by the EcoWaste Coalition’s probe (antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury), as well as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates.

HB 6552’s authors include Reps. Anthony del Rosario, Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales, Rachel Marguerite del Mar, Jane Castro, Lani Mercado-Revilla, Jun Omar Ebdane, Alfredo Marañon III and Susan Yap.

“Our latest pre-Christmas analysis of toys indicate that 60 of the 100 samples (60%), contain lead and other toxic metals that have been linked with reproductive abnormalities, endocrine disorders, behavioral, developmental and learning problems and even cancers,” stated Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Among the samples found tainted with heavy metals above levels of concern were some dolls with PVC materials, play makeup sets, toy animals, toy boxing gadgets, toy cars, toy guns, toy musical instruments and other toy products.

Not even a single toy sample has listed its chemicals ingredients on the label, depriving consumers of their right to know what the products are made of and, consequently, to make informed choices, the group noted.

Visiting expert Bill Menrath from Ohio, who was the chair of Cincinnati Area Lead Advisory Committee and the Lead Coordinator for the City of Cincinnati, said that the test results give credence to the urgency to phase out lead and other substances in paints and children’s products that may undermine brain development and wreak havoc on kids’ health.

“Children are not able to protect themselves against lead and other hazardous substances lurking in toys, and it is really up to us, adults, to shield them from these hidden toxins. In the US, over a million children have high levels of lead in their blood because of exposure to lead in paint, dust and soil, necessitating for strong preventive measures to combat childhood lead poisoning at the source,” said Menrath.

Pediatric toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio, Vice-President of the Philippine Society for Clinical and Occupational Toxicology, explained why children are more vulnerable than adults to toxic exposure.

“Children are most susceptible to chemical poisoning because their bodies and organ systems are still developing, making them at risk to the intrusion of toxic substances. They breathe more air, drink more water, eat more food and often put dirt, toys and non-food items into their mouth, making them more exposed to bacterial and chemical toxins,” she said.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol bought the samples worth P2 to 165 each last week at various formal and informal retail shops in Baclaran, a bargain shopping paradise, and other commercial hubs in Pasay City.

The items were then analyzed using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, a device that is extensively used to identify and measure heavy metals present in a material.

Out of 100 samples, 43 (43%) had lead above the US regulatory limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) on lead in paint.

“If we are to use the ceiling of 40 ppm for lead in children’s products as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the number of lead-tainted toys among the samples will rise to 49 or almost half of the samples,” Dizon added.

Some 32 samples (32%) contain more than one metal such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury above levels of concern, indicating the possibility of multiple chemical exposures.

Exposure to lead, which has no safe level, can damage normal brain development and cause lower IQ, shorter attention span, poorer school performance, growth delays, hearing loss, anemia, aggression and other behavioral problems.

Mercury, which is toxic to the nervous system, can impair a child’s memory, attention, and language abilities, and also obstruct a child’s fine motor and visual spatial skills, while antimony, arsenic, cadmium and chromium are classified as known or possible human carcinogens, or substances that can induce cancer in humans.