EcoWaste Coalition Steps Up Drive vs Toxic Toys in Baclaran (“Toy Check-Up” Held to Gauge Safety of Christmas Toys)

A toxics watchdog has intensified its campaign to inform and warn consumers about the chemical hazards in some toys being sold in the market amid the pre-Christmas shopping spree.

In a bid to reach out to grassroots consumers, the EcoWaste Coalition organized today the first ever free-of-charge “Toy Check-Up Tent” outside the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran, Parañaque City.

The event coincided with the Feast of Saint Nicholas, also known as Santa Claus or “Father Christmas”, the generous gift-giver, on December 6.

“We have come here to draw consumers’ attention to the problem with buying and giving untested, unregistered and unlabeled toy gifts that could contain toxic substances and cause adverse health effects among children,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Toys tainted with lead, mercury and other toxic chemicals present a clear and present danger to young children who often put their hands and playthings into their mouths,” he emphasized.

For her part, Dr. Bessie Antonio, President of the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology, stressed that “efforts must be made to prevent and reduce children’s exposure to heavy metals, many of which are dangerous for a child’s developing brain and body even at low levels.”

The group employed a hand-held device called the X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer to identify and measure chemical elements in toy products bought by participating consumers.

The XRF, a screening technology routinely used by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, allows the rapid identification and measurement of up to 20 elements in a product without destroying the sample.

Engr. Ramir Castro of QES (Manila), Inc. conducted the XRF “toy check-up” with assistance from the EcoWaste Coalition’s “AlerToxic Patrol.”

The group also distributed leaflets reminding consumers to exercise their rights to product information and safety to avoid purchasing toys that can expose children to harmful chemicals.

The EcoWaste Coalition last July 2011 analyzed 435 children’s products bought from various retail outlets in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Davao City and found 124 samples (29%) containing at least one toxic metal above levels of concern.

Antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury were among the toxic metals found in children’s accessories, cosmetics, toys and school supplies.

None of the tainted products contained warning labels to inform consumers about their toxic ingredients.

To avoid buying unsafe toys, the EcoWaste Coalition urged consumers to habitually read product labels and to demand information about chemical ingredients.

The Department of Health through Administrative Order 2007-32 requires all locally produced and imported toys to state the following on their labels: a duly registered name and trademark, a model reference number, the name of the manufacturer or distributor, and the place, country and year of manufacture, as well as warnings and precautionary indications.

Consumers are also advised to look for the manufacturer’s License to Operate (LTO) number, an indicator that the toy has complied with the DOH’s documentary requirements.