EcoWaste Coalition Steps Up Warning against Toxic Toys

Quezon City – At the height of the Simbang Gabi and Christmas shopping frenzy, the EcoWaste Coalition, a chemicals and toxics safety watchdog, in cooperation with Santuario de San Pedro
Bautista Parish, staged at the church’s patio today, a mini-musical play as a gift to the faithful who also happen to be consumers.

The play, dubbed as “Toy Story – A Toxic Legacy”, highlighted the menace lurking in the paint of the toys we buy for children and reminded the audience of their responsibility to be critical of the things they purchase as gifts. The group reinforced their commitment to spread awareness against the perils of lead in paint with the success of their previous efforts which kicked off simultaneously with the onset of the yuletide season.

“There is no lack of best alternatives to lead loaded toys that threaten the health of our children,” said Paeng Lopez, EcoWaste Coalition’s Lead Paint Elimination Campaign Coordinator. “With the use of a little creativity, we just might rediscover the true spirit of gift-giving and find a meaning to what has now become a mechanical act,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition suggests making your own gifts, giving plants, or spending a meaningful time with the whole family at home or out of town among other substitutes to buying probably risky gifts.

“Let us all be prudent in giving gifts, like our ever-loving Father,” reminded Rev. Romy Floralde OFM, parish priest of San Pedro Bautista Church. “When the Lord our God sent us Jesus his son, he gave humanity a thoroughly beneficial gift devoid any detrimental flaw. Let us all be as lovingly cautious and avoid giving any gift that may prove to be more of a burden than a treasure,” he advised.

Lead is an invisible poison that poses serious threat to children’s health. Once exposed, it could cause an assortment of severe health problems such as decreased bone and muscle growth, speech and language difficulties, hearing loss, behavioral issues, and lower IQ. Lead in paint maybe inhaled or eaten, and, in some degree, absorbed into the skin. Because of their hand-to-mouth activities, children are most susceptible to lead poisoning.

“We must demand proper labeling of toys,” suggested Baby Reyes of Mother Earth Foundation. “Shoppers should not bear the trouble of determining the safety of their purchase. Instead, manufacturers must duly provide appropriate information on the packaging of their products in order to properly advise consumers about the risks involved in buying them.”

In addition, Lopez recommended that there must be a regular monitoring program from the government and private sector, similar to what other countries such as the US is doing, to ensure that manufacturers continue to keep their products trustworthy.

“It would do us well to have something like the US Consumer Products Safety Commission which dutifully and regularly recalls unsafe products in the market,” said Lopez. “Also, an independent body like HealthyStuff.org, a consumer safety promoter, which incidentally early this month published their Third Annual Consumer Guide to Toxic Chemicals in Toys for the 2009 Holiday Shopping Season, would be most beneficial to all,” he added.

In relation to this, EcoWaste Coalition also recommended the establishment of a partnership among the civil society organizations and other stakeholders to ensure that lead is eventually eliminated from paints worldwide.

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Every Christmas a lot of us dig deep into our coffers to give our loved ones, especially the children, gifts to warm the heart or fill the belly. How do we avoid creating more holiday trash? How do we make sure we are not unwittingly poisoning the children? How do we tackle crass consumerism so that the real reason for the season is not drowned out by the festive celebration?

Here are 12 tips from the EcoWaste Coalition:

1. Collect unused gifts, old clothes, toys, books and other materials and donate them to charitable institutions.

2. Personalize gifts by making them yourself. Why not gift your family and friends with your specialty dish, plants from your own backyard, scrapbooks, or a CD music selection?

3. Volunteer your time and talents to projects and services for the community and the environment. Ask your barangay, church, school or organization how you can be of help.

4. Give old items that you already have a new look. This not only prevents waste generation, it also allows room for personal creativity. It also gives the receiver the feeling that you took the time and effort to create for her/him.

5. When buying gifts, choose eco-friendly products that do not come from old-growth forests, contain no GMOs, are not fossil fuel-based, non-toxic, and not made from child or abusive labor practices.

6. If you are buying toys, select those that are adequately and truthfully labeled, age-appropriate, locally-made, safe and void of harmful substances.

7. Patronize toys that promote a culture of creativity, harmony, and peace, and not that of prejudice, war and violence.

8. Give products and delicacies from your province. Go for fruits, vegetables, plants, sweets, condiments, decorative and functional crafts, etc.

9. Give environment-friendly gifts made of recycled materials or products or services that advocate sustainable living. Share items that will teach recycling such as handouts, primers and manuals on the different kinds of recycling.

10. Choose gifts that do not need to be wrapped such as potted plants, massage from blind masseurs, gift checks, concert tickets, raffle tickets etc.

11. If you need to wrap the gift, use old magazines or newspapers (especially the comics section), old bandannas, etc. You can also use craft paper and jazz it up with colored pencils.

12. Call or send e-card to family and friends with Internet access. Create your own greeting card to give it a more personal touch or buy cards from groups with a special mission or advocacy.

WATCH OUT: Ensure that gifts, especially toys, school supplies and instructional materials for children, do not contain hazardous ingredients such as bisphenol A, phthalates, lead, mercury and other chemicals of concern. Carefully read the product labels. If the information is inadequate or is written in a language that you do not understand, better not buy it. You have the right to be informed and to be protected against dishonest or misleading product label or