A toxics watchdog today conducted a free “toy clinic” as consumers from near and afar trek to Divisoria, the bargain hunters’ paradise, for toys to give or sell this Christmastime.
In collaboration with the management of Tutuban Mall, the “toy clinic” was also held to call attention to the responsibility of toy makers, both foreign and local, to produce and market non-toxic goods that have passed chemical safety analysis and are properly labelled.
The event saw shoppers, mostly women, lining up to have their toy purchases screened for heavy metals through a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, a device that is able to detect and measure cadmium, lead, mercury and other chemicals of concern in just a few seconds.
As the toys’ screening was underway, over a dozen green-clad children donning red Santa’s hats, from Buklod Tao-San Mateo, serenaded the crowd with Christmas carols, including the song “Toxic Toys” that they sang to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”
Among the EcoWaste partners who graced the occasion was Sara Nilsson, visiting advocate on green consumerism from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, Sweden’s oldest and largest environmental organization.
“We have come to Divisoria to remind toy consumers to be alert and cautious about the possibility of buying items with hidden toxins that could pose health risks to young users,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“An alert and cautious consumer exercises her rights to get real value for hard-earned money, which includes being safe from undisclosed toxins prowling in products,” he said.
Among these rights are the right to truthful product information, the right to product safety, the right to choose, the right to redress and the right to a healthy environment.
The EcoWaste Coalition’s ongoing drive to purge toxic toys out of the thriving toy market is not without a solid basis.
A pre-Christmas screening of toys bought by the group from Divisoria in September 2012 revealed that 74 of the 150 samples (49%) were laced with heavy metals above levels of concern, including lead that exceeded the US lead in paint limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) in 54 samples (36%).
Also, 148 samples (98.6%) lacked the required license to operate (LTO) number on the product labels, and none of the samples (100%) provided full product information, including a listing of their chemical ingredients.
Last Tuesday, the Department of Health through the Food and Drug Administration issued DOH-FDA Advisory 2012-014 warning consumers about the “harms and hazards of plastic toys with heavy metals as these have been found to leach out from the toys when they are sucked or chewed” by young children.
For children’s safety, the DOH-FDA enjoined consumers and parents, among other things, to check the labels for the chemical ingredients used in the manufacture of toys and the precautions appearing on the labels.