Watchdog Pushes DTI, DOH to Impose Precautionary Ban Until Hoverboards Proven Safe

Hoverboards on sale at Lucky Chinatown Mall (above) and 999 Shopping Mall in Divisoria, Manila.
The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit health and
environmental watchdog group that is also looking at toy safety, urged the
government to impose a precautionary ban on the importation, sale and use of
self-balancing, two-wheel scooters known as hoverboards until all the product
safety issues have been fully resolved.
Last December 29, Trade and Industry Undersecretary Victorio
Dimagiba announced that the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of
Trade and Industry (DTI) have formed a panel to investigate the safety issues
hounding hoverboards.  The panel is
expected to meet this January.
In a joint advisory, DTI and DOH also advised the public
against purchasing hoverboards for kids below 14 years old “in the light of
reported health and safety issues/concerns (including fires and explosion) and
as a precautionary measure.”
“We welcome the formation of
the panel and urge its members to get to the bottom of the hoverboard safety
controversy as soon as possible,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste
Coalition’s Project Protect.
“Pending the initiation and completion of the probe and
the adoption of strong safety standards, we find it logical for the government
to enforce a precautionary ban on hoverboards that are being sold in
formal and informal retail outlets, as well as in online
shopping sites,” he said.
Retailers who cannot provide verifiable assurance of
safety of the hoverboards they are selling should voluntarily return these
products to their source, the EcoWaste Coalition further suggested.
Divisoria toy vendors sell hoverboards from P7,500 to
P14,500. Online retailer Lazada offers Hoverboards  from P7,315 to P17,999, while OLX sells them
for P5,500 to P75,000.
“The reported fire and fall incidents in Europe and US
involving sub-standard hoverboards should spur strong product safety, labeling
and warning requirements,” Dizon said.
In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety
Commission (CPSC) has admitted “there is no safety standard in place for
hoverboards.” The CPSC is currently investigating cases of hoverboards that
have caught fire, as well cases of serious fall injuries
resulting to “concussions, fractures, contusions/abrasions, and internal organ
According to the CPSC, “retailers should always be asking
their suppliers if there is an applicable safety standard in place before
agreeing to sell those products,” stressing that “the absence of any standard
should cause retailers to require extra proof of sound design, manufacturing
and quality control processes.”
In the United Kingdom, the National Trading Standards
(NTS) have examined over 17,000 hoverboards from October to December 2015 and
detained more than 15,000 (88%) of them for being unsafe.
According to NTS,  “many of the items detained and sent for
testing have been found to have noncompliant plugs without fuses, which
increases the risk of the device overheating, exploding or catching fire.
“  Major UK retailers have removed
hoverboards from store shelves.
Citing information from the European Union’s Rapid Alert
System for Non-Food Products (RAPEX), the EcoWaste Coalition said that UK has
ordered the “destruction” of China-made Misuta Sport hoverboard because “the battery charger has no cut-off switch on the
charging circuit which means that the battery could overheat when it is fully
charged and potentially cause a fire.”
For those who have already bought their hoverboards, the
EcoWaste Coalition reiterated the following safety tips from CPSC:
1. Do not charge a hoverboard
overnight or when you are not able to observe the board.
2. Charge and store in an open dry area away from
combustibles (meaning items that can catch fire).
3. Do not charge directly after riding.  Let the device cool for an hour before
4. Do not ride near vehicular traffic.
5. Wear safety gear when using
a hoverboard such as a helmet, and knee and elbow pads and wrist guards for protection
from falls.
The EcoWaste Coalition further asked the DTI and DOH to
implement necessary regulatory measures to rid the market of toys laden with
hazardous chemicals such as lead and other toxic metals, phthalates and persistent organic pollutants.
(P75,000, 3 January 2016)
(P5,500, 3 January 2016)
(P7,315, 3 January 2016)
(P17,999, 3 January 2016)