EcoWaste Coalition Thrilled to Find Lead Safe Wooden Toys in Manila Stores (25 of 25 Samples Contain No Toxic Lead)

Brightly colored wooden toys can be made without using lead-containing paints that can put a child’s rapidly developing brain at risk of permanent damage.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental and health watchdog tracking toxins in toys and children’s products, proved this point after screening 25 colorful wooden toys, mostly imported from China, and finding no toxic lead in all samples.

“Toys coated with lead paints are totally unsafe for kids to play with.  They can unknowingly ingest lead as they place their hands, toys and other objects contaminated with lead paint chips or dust in their mouth. We are therefore elated to find lead safe toys this time around,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Our latest findings should push other toy manufacturers, especially local ones who are still using lead paints, to stop the perilous practice and comply with the law,” he emphasized.

The newly promulgated Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources strictly prohibits the use of lead in the production of toys.

The wooden toy samples, which include alphabet and number toys, animal, flower and shape jigsaw puzzles, pet animal figures, musical instruments, pull toys and other playthings, were fully or partially coated with vibrant colors such as yellow, red, orange, green, blue and other hues.

The samples, costing P16 to P449.75, were obtained from diverse retail outlets in Manila such as the National Book Store, Shopwise and SM Toy Kingdom Express in Harrison Plaza, Malate, Daiso Japan and Toys R Us in Robinsons Place, Ermita,  Booksale, Paco and Isetann Department Store, Quiapo, as well as in bargain stores in 168 and 999 Shopping Malls in Divisoria.  The items were procured from July 11 to 18, 2014.

The paint coatings of the wooden toys were found to contain no detectable level of lead based on the screening performed through a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

Dizon recalled that their previous sampling of wooden toys showed despicable levels of lead on paint coatings in products that are marketed for children’s use.

For instance, six of the 11 wooden toys sent by the group to the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, USA for laboratory analysis in 2011 were found to contain excessive lead content, with a Cebu-made nautilus jigsaw puzzle registering lead up to 45,671 parts per million (ppm).

More recently, the group’s XRF screening of colorful toy ukuleles from Cebu and Lapu-Lapu Cities last June 2014 found lead in all 10 samples with the highest reading at 26,100 ppm.  In March 2014, 31 out of the 33 painted turumpo (wooden play tops) screened positive for lead up to 15,100 ppm.

Quoting a World Health Organization’s fact sheet, the EcoWaste Coalition said: “Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system.”

“At high levels of exposure, lead attacks the brain and central nervous system to cause coma, convulsions and even death. Children who survive severe lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and behavioural disruption,” the WHO said.

“At lower levels of exposure that cause no obvious symptoms, and that previously were considered safe, lead is now known to produce a spectrum of injury across multiple body systems. In particular lead affects children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioural changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behaviour, and reduced educational attainment,” it further said.

“The neurological and behavioural effects of lead are believed to be irreversible,” the WHO warned.