Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Toxic Watchdog Finds Brain Poison in Toys

Toys with lead can damage children’s brains and their future

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for chemical safety awareness and action, made this statement as it pointed to the high levels of lead, a neurotoxin, in some wooden toys sold in the domestic market.

At a press conference held today in Quezon City, environmental and health advocates led by actress Chin-Chin Gutierrez drew attention to the alarming concentrations of lead, a nerve and brain poison, in some children’s toys.

“Our investigation confirms the disturbing quantities of lead in some painted wooden toys that can harm our children’s smaller and still growing brains and bodies instead of providing them with educational and recreational benefits,” said Gutierrez, who is also a Steering Committee member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“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,” she pleaded.

Toys purchased in past years still present a health risk to children and may even become more dangerous as the paint tends to become chipped and loose with time, the EcoWaste Coalition also emphasized.

Six of the 11 imported and locally-produced wooden toys bought by the EcoWaste Coalition and sent to the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, USA for laboratory analysis using atomic absorption spectroscopy were found to contain high levels of lead, the group reported.

A colourful nautilus jigsaw puzzle made in the Philippines tested with the highest amounts of lead in 14 of its component parts with lead levels between 6,039 to 45,671 ppm.

The 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.

As a reference value, the EcoWaste Coalition cited the maximum allowable total lead content of 90 ppm for children’s products, including toys, under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, with a caveat from health experts that there really is no safe ceiling for lead exposure in children.

Speaking at the press conference, 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.

1. For 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.

2. For the Department of Health to strengthen the enforcement of DOH Administrative Order 2007-0032 regulating 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.

3. For 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.

4. For the Department of Trade and Industry to 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.

5. For the Department of Finance through the Bureau of Customs to 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.

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

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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