With barely 100 days before Christmas, a toxics watchdog reminded the public to be cautious of the thriving trade in unlabeled and unlicensed toys that may spell danger for kids.
In a pre-Christmas testing of toys sold from P10 to P100 that are increasingly enjoying brisk sales in Divisoria, the bargain hunters’ heaven, the EcoWaste Coalition detected toxic metals in 74 of 150 samples (49%) above levels of concern.
The investigation also showed that 148 samples (98.6%) carried no license to operate (LTO) on their labels, and that none of the samples (100%) provided complete product information, including their chemical composition.
“We have embarked on a timely toxics investigation to find out if toys sold at rock bottom prices in Divisoria are indeed good deals and pose no risk to young users,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“We will do this every month from September to December in different locations to generate information that we hope consumers can use to make sound purchasing decisions,” he said.
“The sampling data will be transmitted to the authorities to assist them in undertaking essential regulatory interventions, including the issuance of toy safety advisories and recall orders, to protect our children’s health,” he added.
The samples were obtained on September 8, 9 and 10, 2012 from over a dozen toy wholesale and retail shops located at 11/88 Shopping Mall, 168 Shopping Mall, 999 Shopping Mall, New Divisoria Center, Tutuban Center Prime Block Shopping Mall and Tutuban Corner Store, and screened for heavy metals on September 11, using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.
Of the 150 samples, 54 (36%) were found to contain elevated levels of lead up to 14,100 parts per million (ppm), way above US lead in paint limit of 90 ppm.
According to the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, lead may be found in the paint on toys, or as an additive to make the plastic material soft and pliable, or as an agent to stabilize molecules from heat.
Among those with the highest concentrations of lead among the sampled toys were a "Wonderful Voice" xylophone with 14,100 ppm, an “Angry Birds” bookmark clip with 6,484 ppm, a baby doll with 5,638 ppm, an “Angry Birds” wrist strap with 3,976 ppm and a “Ben 10” wrist strap with 3,363 ppm.
Lead is a neurotoxin that is exceptionally bad for young children and whose health effects are often permanent. Health scientists have recognized that there is no safe threshold for lead exposure, especially for children.
Lead exposure through ingestion, skin contact or inhalation in the form of dust can cause mental retardation, learning disabilities, decreased intelligence quotient scores, growth delays and behavioural problems among children. Lead exposure is also linked to anemia, hearing loss and kidney damage.
Pediatric toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center pointed out that children are most susceptible to absorbing lead because of their habitual hand-to-mouth practices as they grow, explore and develop.
“Children tend to put their hands and other objects such as toys that may have lead paint or dust into their mouths resulting in direct ingestion of lead. Their bodies and vital organs are still developing, making them more vulnerable against lead and other chemical poisons,” she said.
Other metals found in some of the toys sampled include antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium and mercury.
Mercury, a highly toxic substance, was discovered in all four children’s makeup sets in the range of 2.7 to 326 ppm, way above the government’s 1 ppm allowable limit for mercury in cosmetics.
Chromium, which can be carcinogenic depending on its type, was found in 14 samples from 97 to 2,685 ppm (a baby doll); cadmium, a probable human carcinogen, was uncovered in eight samples from 196 to 954 ppm (the same baby doll); arsenic, a known human carcinogen, was found in nine samples from 34 to 1,474 ppm (a xylophone); and antimony,a suspected carcinogen, was detected in 28 samples from 66 to 11,900 ppm (a lizard squeeze toy).
Barium, another chemical of concern, was detected in 11 samples from 1,141 to 6,811 ppm (a child lipstick with 2,687 ppm).
All the 150 samples provided zero information about their chemicals ingredients, and none that tested positive for toxic metals indicated that they contain such chemicals.
A further analysis of the samples with reference to the requirements of the Department of Health (DOH) Administrative Order 2007-0032 to regulate toys sold or given free in the Philippines as amended in 2011 and 2012, revealed that:
A. 148 samples (98.6%) had no LTO issued by the DOH’s Bureau of Health Devices and Technology (BHDT). LTO is granted to toy producers, importers and distributors whose products conform with the DOH’s health and safety requirements and the Philippine National Standard for the Safety of Toys.
B. 150 samples (100%) provided either zero or incomplete product information, including a duly registered name and trademark, a model reference number, the name of the manufacturer or distributor, place, country and year of manufacture, directions for use, precautionary indications and warnings.
With the test results, the EcoWaste Coalition renewed its appeal to the toys industry to strictly manufacture, import, distribute and sell products that have been fully tested for safety, contain no toxic chemicals of concern and provide truthful product information in keeping with the consumers’ right to know.
DOH Administrative Order 2007-0031on the “Regulations on the Issuance of a License to Operate to Companies thatManufacture, Import or Distribute Toys for the Philippine Market”