Senators Urged to Craft Strong Law on Children’s Products to Keep “Toxic Grinch” at Bay

A toxic watchdog kicked off October as “Consumer Welfare Month” with a creative action at the Senate to campaign for a legislative ban on harmful ingredients in children’s products and for full disclosure of chemical information on product labels.

Members of the EcoWaste Coalition, along with Buklod Tao, gathered outside the Senate in Pasay City to push for a comprehensive policy on children’s products that will promote and protect the rights of young consumers to toxic-free and properly labeled goods.

Led by “Toxic Grinch” (a Santa Claus lookalike) carrying a sack of unregistered and unlabeled toys, the groups reminded Senators about the pressing need for tougher measures to safeguard the health and safety of children as Christmas gets closer.

The event coincided with today’s public hearing by the Senate Committees on Health, Trade and Commerce on pending bills addressing toy safety issues, and with the observance of the “Consumer Welfare Month” pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 1098, Series of 1997.

“While we welcome the bills filed by Senators Estrada and Villar on toy labeling requirements, as well as the bill filed by Senator Recto amending the Consumer Act of the Philippines, we find them inadequate in guaranteeing children’s safety from toxic chemicals creeping around toys that kids play with,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“All three bills have no provision that will require manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers to disclose information on chemical ingredients in children’s products and their potential adverse effects to human health and the environment,” he explained.

“Consumers have the right to information on chemicals in products and the provision of such information should be made mandatory and emphasized in any law that seeks to champion children’s health and well-being,” he pointed out.

“Better still, an all-encompassing law on children’s products should be drafted and promulgated that will, among others, prohibit the use of chemicals of concern that are linked to cancer, birth defects, developmental abnormalities, endocrine disorders and other health problems,” he stated.

Senate Bills 894 and 1308 introduced by Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Manny Villar provide for the inclusion of cautionary statements to warn against choking hazard in the packaging of toys or games intended for children below the age of 10.

While Senate Bill 2975 sponsored by Senator Ralph Recto seeks to strengthen Republic Act 7394, the Consumer Act of the Philippines, with additional provisions such as requiring English or Filipino translation of product labels written in foreign characters/languages.

A recent study by the EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN shows 29% of the 435 samples of children’s products bought from diverse retail shops in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Davao City tested positive with toxic metals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury above levels of concern.

None of these tainted products were labeled with information about their chemical ingredients to warn consumers, and some products that carried the ‘non-toxic’ labels were found to contain toxic metals, the groups revealed.

The same study shows that not all samples had license to operate (LTO) as required under the Department of Health Administrative Order 32, Series of 2007, which regulates the issuance of LTO to companies that manufacture, import or distribute toys for the local market.