EcoWaste Coalition Urges Congress to Enact Safe Toys Law (32% of Cheap Toys Sold Outside Public Elementary Schools Found Toxic)

A toxics watchdog has put forward an urgent appeal before lawmakers even have time to warm their seats with the resumption of the 15th Congress: enact a safe toys bill.

In its second “State of the Toys Analysis” (SOTA) released ahead of President Benigno Aquino III’s “State of the Nation Address (SONA),” the EcoWaste Coalition reported detecting toxic metals above levels of concern in 54 (32%) of 171 assorted children’s products tested on July 19, 2012 using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) chemicals analyzer.

The group also reported that 68% of the samples had no detectable heavy metals or contained low levels of these chemicals, signifying the commercial and technical viability of producing cleaner and safer toys.

“The results of our investigation should induce Congress into swiftly enacting a law that will ban health-damaging chemicals in toys and other common children’s products. President Aquino and Congress need to act with dispatch to prevent toxic exposure from unregistered, unlabeled and unsafe toys. We urge them to add this into their legislative priorities,” Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“A robust law should compel the toy industry to shape up and make children’s health and safety a top corporate responsibility,” he added.

The product samples, mostly “made in China” toys and carried zero or incomplete product information, were bought on July 17-19, 2012 from stores and vendors in the immediate vicinity of public elementary schools in 17 local government units in Metro Manila.

The samples were obtained from Caloocan City (Caloocan Elementary School), Las Piñas City (Pamplona Central Elementary School), Makati City (Francisco Benitez Elementary School), Malabon City (Malabon Elementary School), Mandaluyong City (Mandaluyong Elementary School), Manila City (Paaralang Santa Ana), Marikina City (Barangka Elementary School), Muntinlupa City (Muntinlupa Elementary School) and Navotas City (Navotas Elementary School).

Samples were likewise obtained from Parañaque City (Tambo Elementary School), Pasay City (Gotamco Elementary School), Pasig City (Pasig Elementary School), Pateros (Pateros Elementary School), Quezon City (Tatalon Elementary School and Quirino Elementary School), San Juan City (Pinaglabanan Elementary School), Taguig City (Taguig Elementary School) and Valenzuela City(Pio Valenzuela Elementary School).

Out of the 171 samples, lead, a brain poison chemical that causes low IQ, poor school performance and behavioral problems, was found in 50 samples up to 7,962 parts per million (ppm), way above the US regulatory limit of 90 ppm.

A notorious neurotoxin with no safe level of exposure, lead can be transferred to children through exposure to contaminated products such as toys.

“Hand to mouth activities, which are typical among young children, could result to a higher intake of lead-containing paint chip and dust from contaminated toys as well as other sources such as lead-painted walls, ceilings, furniture and fixtures, and playground equipment,” warned pediatric toxicologist Dr.Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center.

Among the five samples that registered with the highest amounts of lead were 1) a silver toy ring, 7,962 ppm, 2) a “Loplop” strap ruler,7,688 ppm, 3) an “Emo” neck pouch wallet, 6,034 ppm, 4) a “Totoy Bato” necklace, 4,395 ppm, and 5) a “Crystal Slime” with ruler, 4,318ppm.

Lead was also detected in the containers and packaging of five junk food products, all sold at P5 only, in the range of 93 ppm to 352 ppm.

Lead-containing articles, particularly plastic food containers, may eventually end up being chewed by kids who are totally unaware of the dangers lurking in their toys, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Aside from lead, the EcoWaste Coalition also reported finding other chemicals of concern such as antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium,chromium and mercury in some of the toy samples.

Barium, for instance, was detected in 15 samples, including a toy xylophone with10,000 ppm and a mini “Choco dippin stick” food container with 12,400 ppm, way above the US soluble content limit of 1,000 ppm.

The presence of multiple chemicals of concerns in some products even in trace levels raises some valid questions about the health effects of chemical mixtures, especially to children’s health, the EcoWaste Coalition noted.

In its first SOTA in July 2011, the EcoWaste Coalition, together with IPEN (a global civil society network for a toxics-free future),reported that 30% of the 200 children’s products the group bought from Baclaran, Divisoria and some shopping malls and then tested with XRF had toxic metals above levels of concern.

As a result of the EcoWaste Coalition’s exposé, lawmakers from both houses of the Congress filed resolutions calling for “an inquiry in aid of legislation” that will phase out the use of lead and other harmful chemicals in toys.

The House Committee on Health, led by Rep. Alfredo MarañonIII, is deliberating a bill introduced by Reps. Susan Yap, Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales and Anthony del Rosario that seeks “to reduce and eliminate dangerous, toxic and hazardous chemicals from children’s products.”