17 December 2010

EcoWaste Coalition Asks for Government Assurance that Only Safe Toys are Sold in the Marketplace

As the grand day of gift-giving nears, a group campaigning against toxins in toys asked the Aquino government to ensure that only safe items will be sold in bargain centers as well as in upmarket stores.

The EcoWaste Coalition voiced its appeal for government assurance on toy quality and safety, especially as shops and vendors in Divisoria and shopping malls enjoy a brisk sale ahead of Christmas next week.

“The government is responsible for recalling toys that have not passed quality and safety standards, including product labelling requirements,” said Roy Alvarez, president of the EcoWaste Coalition. “Toys that pose choking, laceration, poking, strangulation and chemical poisoning threats to young children should be withdrawn from store shelves without delay.”

“We want to see the authorities ordering product recalls as a precaution against children’s potential exposure to physical, mechanical and chemical hazards in toys,” he added.
Citing data from the European Union’s Rapid Alert System for Non-Food Products (RAPEX), the coalition reported that in 2009, 476 kinds of toys were recalled by the 27-country bloc. An additional 478 kinds were recalled in 2010.

The EcoWaste Coalition also revealed that in the US, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled 50 kinds of toys in 2009 and 44 kinds in 2010.

“Government authorities in Europe and the US issue toy recall orders from time to time to rid the market of dangerous toys,” Alvarez pointed out. “Our own government should do the same in order to save our children from harm. If they don’t, who will?”

"The government should also ensure that recalled toys from abroad will not get dumped into the country's ports and markets," he added.

The coalition also alerted the public to a recent move by the Belgian and French governments to impose a ban on giant puzzle mats or carpets made of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam because of concern with formamide.

Formamide is a reproductive toxicant, or a chemical that is classified as toxic to the reproductive system, which can pose harm to fetuses and infants. Exposure can also cause eye, nose, throat and skin irritation

“The latest toxic scare in Belgium and France involving formamide-laced foam puzzle mats or carpets, which are also quite popular in the Philippines, should be enough incentive to induce the authorities into withdrawing the product from the local market,” said Thony Dizon, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

Last Friday, the Belgian Minister for Consumer Protection, Paul Magnette, ordered the withdrawal of foam puzzle tapestries which were found to contain high levels of formamide.

Following the Belgian action, Frederic Lefebvre, the French Secretary of Consumer Affairs, ordered the Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and Fraud to “proceed without delay to control the toxicity of carpet puzzles for children and (their) sale on the French market.”

In 2009, consumer groups in Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain reported the presence of formamides in foam mat puzzles.

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