Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Group warns vs high lead levels in toys

Made and imported wooden toys have been found to contain high levels of lead, a neurotoxin that can cause brain damage, a chemical safety advocacy group said on Tuesday.

Six of the 11 imported and locally-produced toys it bought last year and later sent abroad for laboratory analysis showed "the disturbing quantities of lead in some painted wooden toys," the EcoWaste Coalition said in a statement.

High quantities of the substance "can harm our children's smaller and still growing brains and bodies instead of providing them with educational and recreational benefits," the group's statement said, citing one of its members, actress Chin-Chin Gutierrez.

"We urge the authorities to take tough actions to rid the toys market of lead-tainted products, including recalling toys that are unfit and unsafe for children's use. We can and we must prevent lead poisoning of our children from toys," said Gutierrez, who is also a Steering Committee member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Toys can last for some time and pose a health hazard for as long as they are accessible to children. As the toys age, they are more likely to have their paint become loose and thereby be more available to kids and contribute to lead exposure.

A Philippine-made colorful nautilus jigsaw puzzle which was tested using atomic absorption spectroscopy in the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, USA was found to contain the highest amounts of lead in 14 of its component parts with lead levels between 6,039 to 45,671 parts per million.

Other toy samples with parts loaded with lead include a wooden ornamental pin with one part containing up to 20,740 ppm lead; a tractor with wagon with lead concentrations between 2,055 and 11,764 ppm; another pin with two parts having 4,101 and 4,888 ppm lead; a "learn to count" puzzle with lead levels up to 152 ppm; and a barnyard puzzle with one part having 95 ppm lead.

The maximum allowable total lead content is at 90 ppm for children's products, including toys, the group said, citing the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

But at the same time, the Coalition cited health experts who say that there really is no safe ceiling for lead exposure in children.

During a press conference it held Tuesday, toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center identified a range of health problems linked with children's exposure to lead, including damage to the brain and the nervous system, speech and language handicaps and other developmental delays, low intelligence quotient and other learning disabilities and disorders, attention deficit disorder and other behavioral problems, reduced bone and muscle growth, etc.

For his part, Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project Protect (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats), outlined several action points addressed to key government departments.

It asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to issue a health-based Chemical Control Order for the elimination of lead-added paints and articles to curb childhood exposure to lead.

It also sought the Department of Health's cooperation in strengthening the enforcement of DOH Administrative Order 2007-0032. The order regulates the issuance of license to operate to companies that manufacture, import, or distribute toys for the local market, to test toys for lead and to initiate the recall of lead-contaminated toys.

Similarly, it appealed to the Department of Education to screen donations of toys and school supplies for DepEd's K+12 Basic Education Program, and also to order the compulsory use of lead-free paints in school painting and re-painting activities.

The group also said that the Department of Trade and Industry should review the Philippine National Standards (PNS) for toys to prohibit the production, importation, distribution and sale of toys and other children's articles loaded with lead and other chemicals of concern such as phthalates.

The Department of Finance through the Bureau of Customs should exert all measures to stop the entry of untested, unlabelled, and unregistered toys from overseas.

The EcoWaste Coalition also urged the government to ask toy manufacturers to examine the lead content of items that they have sold in the past and also include them in the recall if found to contain lead.

To illustrate the magnitude of this toxic challenge, the EcoWaste Coalition said that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission issued 137 recall orders from 2007 to 2009 for over 10 million imported toys due to high lead content.


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