Sunday, December 5, 2010

6 of 7 toys from bargain centers have toxic plastic

Despite a government health warning, six out of the seven toys an environment group bought in bargain centers had toxic plastic additives.

EcoWaste Coalition said on Monday a laboratory test it commissioned detected the presence of phthalates or toxic additives in six of seven chloride (PVC) toys bought locally.

“The results of our investigation show that the government request to voluntarily stop the production and sale of these harmful toys has been ignored and this provides a compelling reason for stronger action by the Aquino government," Antonio Dizon, EcoWaste Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats) coordinator, said on the group's blog site.

The group bought seven sample toys last November from stores in Divisoria in Manila, and had them analyzed for phthalates at Intertek Thailand.

Among the toy samples were a doll — the only sample that passed the test; a squeeze ball, a shrilly chirping chicken toy; a floating duck toy; a tiger toy; a “Super Mario" toy, and a squeaky “Winnie the Pooh" toy, all imported from China.

The prices of the toys ranged from P18 to P150.

"None of them were labeled as containing phthalates and only one (the 'Super Mario') was labeled as being made of PVC," the group said.

Dizon urged President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to introduce a stricter policy based on the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Advisory 99-05.

As early as 1999, the Philippine government had raised serious concerns about phthalates.

The FDA, then known as the Bureau of Food and Drugs, had issued Advisory 99-05 on December 23, 1999, where the government warned that “phthalates may cause adverse health effects such as liver and kidney wounds, reproductive abnormalities and immune system defects."

The BFD also noted the particular concern over PVC toys and requested manufacturers and retailers to stop the sale of soft PVC toys and infant care products for infants/children under three years of age.

Phthalates are synthetic chemicals added to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic to make it soft and flexible.

“Alternative plastics and other materials do not require toxic chemicals for flexibility and this gives consumers a cost-effective, safer option," said Dr. Joe DiGangi, science and policy adviser of the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN).


To protect Filipino children from phthlates in toys, EcoWaste has put forward these recommendations:

# For the government: Draw up strong policy banning phthalates in toys and child care products;

# For manufacturers: Produce PVC-free toys; list chemical ingredients in the product labels;

# For retailers: Sell only toys that have been tested and have passed toxic regulations, and

# For consumers: Ask, demand and patronize only safe toys for children.

Tips in choosing safe toys

EcoWaste listed tips from “Safe Toys Guide," published by the Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF), coordinator of the Safe Toys Coalition:

1. Less is more! Buy fewer toys, aim for quality over quantity.

2. Avoid very cheap toys because they often contain more hazardous chemicals.

3. Do not buy a toy with a strong chemical or perfumed smell or if it feels uncomfortable to the touch.

4. For young children, make sure that no small parts can be pulled off and swallowed.

5. Unpack any new toy and leave it outdoors to let some of the hazardous chemicals to evaporate.

6. For dolls: Buy rag dolls and wash stuffed dolls before use.

7.For cuddly toys: Look for products from natural or organic materials and wash and air toys before use.

8. For wooden toys: Buy solid, unvarnished and unpainted wooden toys with as few glued parts as possible.

9. For plastic toys: choose natural rubber toys, look for PVC-free and phthalate-free labels and avoid products which smell strongly of chemicals.

10. For art materials and cosmetics: Do not buy scented toys, as these can trigger lifelong fragrance allergies, which cannot be cured. Choose products with food or plant colorings and without preservatives.

Laboratory results

A laboratory analysis showed that six of the seven toy samples failed the 0.1% by mass limit set by the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 for children’s toys and child care articles.

Presently, the Philippines has no specific standard on phthalates.

The test results indicated high levels of diethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP), a reproductive toxicant, and di-iso-nonyl phthalate (DINP) in six samples in the range of 2.27% to 33.16%, way beyond the 0.1% by mass threshold.

Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), di-iso-decyl phthalate (DIDP) and di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP) were also detected, but below the limit.

"The phthalates measured in this survey have already been banned in children’s toys by US and European governments to prevent kids' exposure to these toxic chemicals," EcoWaste said.

The group expressed concern that phthalate-tainted toys continue to flood the market despite a decade-old government warning on the health hazards posed by plastic toys.

Last year, EcoWaste pushed for a ban on phthalates at a Congressional hearing convened by the Committee on the Welfare of Children, then chaired by Rep. Monica Teodoro.

The hearing resulted in the adoption of a substitute bill recommending a ban on toys and child care articles containing DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP and DNOP “in concentrations greater than 0.1 percent by mass of the plasticized material."


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