BOC Urged to Tighten Watch Over Toxic Christmas Imports

Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog has exhorted the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to be vigilant against attempts by unscrupulous traders to import goods containing harmful chemicals with the onset of the “ber” months.

As part of its ongoing drive to protect consumers from toxic harm, the EcoWaste Coalition urged BOC Commissioner Napoleon Morales to tighten port controls to thwart the smuggling of popular but potentially dangerous Christmas products.

The EcoWaste Coalition sets its sights on the expected influx of children’s toys and related products from overseas as traders take advantage of increased holiday demand from importers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers.

“We urge Commissioner Morales to go on full alert against the entry of imported children’s toys and articles that might expose young and susceptible consumers to harmful chemicals such as lead, mercury and other heavy metals,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We expect our customs inspectors, as frontliners in preventing the illegal trafficking of toxic and dangerous goods, to strictly enforce the requirements of the law,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition is specifically worried that recalled or banned children’s goods from other countries will find market access in the Philippines due to weak chemical safety regulations and lax customs surveillance.

Regulatory bodies in US and other countries have been issuing product safety alerts and recall orders to protect consumers from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death, including poisoning from lead and other chemical and biological hazards.

In July-August 2009, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission issued recall orders on China-manufactured action figure toys and sport balls due to violation of lead paint standard, instructing consumers to stop using the recalled products immediately.

The surface paints of the said toys were found to contain excessive levels of lead, violating the US federal lead paint standard.

“We hope that Commissioner Morales will initiate augmented port surveillance to ensure that only safe and non-hazardous toys are made available to Filipino children during the festive season,” Calonzo emphasized.

“Given our inadequate chemical safety rules, it will be a precautionary move on the part of the BOC if additional documents will be required from toy shippers, including verifiable documentary proof of safety and non-toxicity and complete product labeling of imported toys and children’s articles,” he further said.