27 September 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Reminds Consumers to Watch Out for Toxic Toys as Christmas Nears

With just 90 days before Christmas, a toxic watchdog exhorted consumers to exercise due diligence in shopping for holiday gifts to prevent children’s exposure to unsafe toys proliferating in the market.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit group promoting the right of consumers to chemical safety, appealed for consumer vigilance with the anticipated rise in toy sale as the long Christmas shopping frenzy gets underway.

“Not all toy products that made it to store shelves are child-friendly as they ought to be. If we are not careful with our purchasing choices, it is likely we will be giving away toys that are not safe for children to play with,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Unsafe toys are playthings that can choke, cut, poke, strangulate and expose young children to dangerous chemicals such as lead and mercury, which can damage the brain and nervous system and cause serious developmental delays and disorders, the EcoWaste Coalition explained.

“By being super diligent in demanding information about chemicals in products such as toys, we can make better choices and lessen children’s exposure to toxic chemicals that can badly affect their health and development,” he pointed out.

“Consumer vigilance can push toy companies to finally shape up and put the health interests of young consumers ahead of corporate gains," he emphasized.

“Consumer demand for safe toys will hopefully compel manufacturers to disclose the chemical ingredients of their products through understandable and truthful labelling,” he added.

As per Department of Health (DOH) Administrative Order 32, Series of 2007, all toy products in the market, whether imported or locally produced, should bear the following minimum information on the label or package: a) correct and registered trade or brand name, b) duly registered trademark, c) model or reference number, d) duly registered business name and address of the manufacturer and/or distributor, e) place, country and date of manufacture, f) license to operate (LTO) number, g) warning and/or precautionary indications, h) instructions on toy’s usage, functions, features and assembly, and i) information on the specified age requirements.

Consumers should specifically look for the LTO number, which is an indicator that the product is duly registered and compliant with the health and safety requirements of the DOH and the Philippine National Standard for Safety of Toys, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“Since most toy labels would not reveal the chemical ingredients that make up a product, consumers could ask retailers to call the manufacturer, importer or distributor to get the essential information and refuse to buy the item if the requested information is kept confidential,” Dizon said.

To stir up public attention on the issue of toxic toys, the EcoWaste Coalition will conduct awareness raising activities in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The EcoWaste Coalition will distribute a colorful “Play Safe” poster co-published with the Food and Drug Administration and IPEN through public and private schools and other children’s hubs.

In July this year, the EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN tested 435 samples of children’s products bought from bargain, high-end and “ukay-ukay” shops in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and in Davao City.

Using a device called X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, the tests indicated that 124 products, or 29 percent of the 435 samples, were found to contain at least one toxic metal above levels of concern such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury.

Sixty-seven children’s products (15 percent) of the samples had lead levels above the US regulatory limit of 90 parts per million (ppm), with the top 10 products containing lead from 1,712 to 38,433 ppm.

Eight children’s products were found laced with mercury, including four children’s cosmetic products containing 2.5 to 77 ppm of mercury, surpassing the country’s regulatory limit of 1 ppm for mercury in cosmetics.

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