Watchdog Finds Toxic Metals in Toys Bought in Manila, Urges Consumers to Insist on Safe Toys

Toxic Toys as the Christmas Season Sets In
(Gregorio B. Dantes, Jr.)

A sampling of assorted toys bought in Manila by an environmental watchdog revealed high levels of lead and other heavy metals in 94 out of 200 toys.

"Our latest investigation shows that nearly half of the toys we analyzed had at least one hazardous substance like lead, which could put the health of young children in danger,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

"On the other hand, we also found more than half of the samples practically free of heavy metals, indicating that such hazardous substances can be replaced with non-toxic substitutes,” he said.

Among the hazardous substances found in the samples were chemicals considered by the World Health Organization as among the “10 chemicals of major public health concern such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury, which also belong to the Philippine Priority Chemicals List of 48 chemicals that could “pose unreasonable risks to public health, workplace and the environment” as per the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The pre-Christmas sampling saw the group’s AlerToxic Patrollers buying samples worth P10 to P180 each from over 20 toy retailers and wholesalers in Divisoria, Ermita, Paco, Malate, Quiapo and Sta. Cruz, Manila.

The samples were purchased on September 18 to 21 and subsequently screened for heavy metals using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.

Results showed that:

1. 94 of the 200 toy samples (47%) had at least one toxic metal, out of which 76 had lead above the 90 parts per million (ppm) limit for lead in paints and surface coatings.

2. Of these 94 samples, none had labels indicating the presence of toxic chemical ingredients to warn consumers.

3. Of the 200 samples, only 20 items (10%) had the issued “license to operate” number printed on their labels, signifying that most samples were not duly registered and compliant with the Philippine National Standards (PNS) for Safety of Toys.

Lead, a potent neurotoxin ingested, inhaled or absorbed by the skin, can cause mental retardation, learning difficulties, lower intelligence quotient scores, growth delays and behavioral problems, as well as anemia, hearing loss and kidney injury.

Dr. Bessie Antonio, a pediatric toxicologist and head of the East Avenue Medical Center’s Out-Patient Department, stressed that children are very vulnerable to lead exposure and poisoning due to their usual hand-to-mouth behavior.

“Lead is directly ingested by kids when they put their hands or toys that may contain lead paint or dust in their mouths. Their immature body organs and systems are still developing and very susceptible to the damaging effects of lead and other toxicants,” she stated.
The EcoWaste Coalition has put forward the following tips to help consumers avoid unsafe toys:

1. Carefully examine the product label, which should contain the product name, the name and contact details of the manufacturer or distributor, the LTO number issued by the government, age for intended use and cautionary warnings in English or Filipino. Always check the product label for chemical safety and health information.

2. Steer clear of toys made of polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC), which contains load of toxic additives, toys with strong chemical or perfume smell, and painted toys unless certified lead-safe.
3. Watch out for other potential hazards in toys including choking, electrocution, laceration, mechanical, microbiological and strangulation hazards, especially toys intended for children below 3 years of age.

“As Christmas nears, we remind consumers to watch out for toys that may expose their young users to harm. Be assertive, insist on your right to properly labeled, tested and registered toys for kids,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.


1. TOY FURNITURE: A yellow-painted metal “Winnie the Pooh” chair with back rest, 26,900 ppm of lead.
2. DOLL: An unclothed girl doll holding a yellow towel with 23,200 ppm of lead, 8,909 ppm of chromium, 1,441 ppm of arsenic and 655 ppm of cadmium.
3. MUG: A mug with red and yellow “Winnie the Pooh” design with 11, 200 ppm of lead, 3,384 ppm of cadmium and 1,797 ppm of arsenic.
4. SPORTING TOY: A black and yellow “SpongeBob SquarePants” PVC plastic boxing gloves with 9,356 ppm of lead.
5. TOY ANIMAL: A red and green dragon with 5,207 ppm of lead.
6. CARTOON FIGURE: A Pocket Bola “Pikachu” character, with 5,165 ppm of lead.
7. WRITING TOOL: A mini-white board with "SpongeBob Squarepants" and“Patrick” characters with 4,128 ppm of lead.
8. SOFT BALL: A “King Sports” soft stuffed ball with 3,902 ppm of lead.
9. BODY ACCESSORY: A green “Ben 10” wrist strap with 3,257 ppm of lead.
10. TOY CAR: A “Grand Prix Formula 1” toy car with 2,000 ppm of lead.
11. MONEY BOX: A whale-like ceramic money box with 1,451 ppm of lead, 1,582 ppm of cadmium and 2,047 ppm of chromium.
12. TOY GUN: An unlabeled toy gun with 978 ppm of lead.
13. ACTION FIGURE: A police action figure with 344 of lead.
14. MUSICAL TOY: A “Spence” xylophone with 296 ppm of lead.
15. TOY COSMETICS: A “Pretty Girl” make-up set with 92 ppm of mercury.