As pre-Christmas shopping slowly but surely picks up with the start of the “ber” months, a health and environmental watchdog promptly reminded consumers to go for safe children’s toys.
In a bid to spread toy safety information during the festive season, the EcoWaste Coalition in a press briefing today unveiled a campaign around the theme “Kid-Safe Toys for Zero Harm, Zero Waste.”
“Through this campaign, we hope to enhance consumer alertness against lurking hazards in toy stores and the need to be extra cautious when making a purchase to protect the health and safety of our children, as well as protect the environment from waste and pollution,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“By ‘kid-safe toys,’ we mean products intended for use by children for learning or playing that pose no hazard to their growing minds and bodies and the surroundings,” he explained.
Common toy hazards that consumers need to be on the lookout include choking, ingestion and inhalation hazards, as well as chemical, electrical, flammability, microbiological and mechanical hazards, which includes hearing damage, sharpness and puncture and strangulation hazards, the group said.
During the months leading to Christmas, the EcoWaste Coalition will conduct a series of public information activities on various toy hazards, perform toy screening, carry out market surveillance and coordinate with responsible agencies and establishments for remedial action.
For starters, the group on August 29 and 31 shopped for 125 toys costing P4 to 140 each from various toy retailers and wholesalers at 11/88 Shopping, 168 Shopping Mall, 999 Shopping Mall, City Place Square Mall, Lucky Chinatown Mall, New Divisoria Commercial Center and Tutuban Prime Block Mall in Divisoria, Manila.
Among the group’s salient findings for this round of toy sampling were:
a. None of the samples provided complete product labeling information; only 1 item has a License to Operate (LTO) number, but its authenticity could not be ascertained.
b. 74 of the samples provided choking hazard warning, but provided no other cautionary warnings for other potential toy hazards; 52 samples suggested age for intended use.
c. Only 3 samples supplied information about their chemical ingredients; a set of 3 mini dolls had cadmium, a human carcinogen, above 1,000 parts per million (ppm) each.
d. 24 of the samples had lead in violation of the DENR Chemical Control for Lead and Lead Compounds strictly prohibiting the use of lead in the manufacturing of toys; worst samples include a toy ladybug costing P20 with 46,000 ppm of lead, a toy chair, P150, with 10,100 ppm of lead, and a toy cartoon sedan, P50, with 4,138 ppm of lead.
e. All soap bubble toys had minimal to zero product information; European countries have recalled dozens of soap bubbles due to microbiological risk related to high count of pathogenic bacteria or microorganisms.
f. 17 of the samples are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic that may pose chemical risk due to the presence of banned phthalate plasticizers used to soften PVC; among the items found was a doll identical to the one sent by the EcoWaste Coalition for laboratory for analysis and found to contain 16.70% of phthalate DEHP, a probable human carcinogen, way above the 0.1% limit.
To guide consumers in selecting kid-safe toys, the EcoWaste Coalition has put forward the following tips:
- Read the product label very carefully: pay attention to the warnings, age recommendation and safety instructions; look for the product manufacturing details and the LTO number, which is issued to authorized toy manufacturer, importer or distributor.
- Select toys that are appropriate for the child’s age, aptitude, skill and temperament, and follow the age recommendation.
- Look for toys that are bigger than a child’s mouth to avoid choking (“the smaller the child, the bigger the toy”); avoid toys that can easily break into small parts or with small unsecured components that may be ingested or placed in the nose or the ears.
- Buy toys from reliable traders and obtain a valid proof of purchase to facilitate replacement, refund, compensation or warranty claim if needed.
- Watch out for toxic toys or play things laden with health-damaging chemicals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury and phthalates.
- Avoid toys with paint coatings - unless certified as lead-safe - to prevent kids from being poisoned when they bite, chew, lick or swallow toys with lead coatings.
- Avoid PVC toys that contain many hidden toxic additives such as heavy metals and phthalates.
- Avoid art toys and play cosmetics that are not confirmed as non-toxic.
- Avoid toys that shoot small or pointed objects into the air that may cause eye or body injuries.
- Avoid toys that have sharp edges or points that may bruise or cut a child’s sensitive skin.
- Avoid toys with cords or strings longer than 12 inches that may wrap around a child’s neck and cut off a child’s circulation.
- Avoid musical toys, rattles and squeeze objects making too loud noises or shrills that can damage a child’s sensitive hearing.
- Avoid stuffed toys with small parts such as buttons or eyes that may be pulled loose and swallowed by a child; avoid those with pellet-like stuffing that may get into a child’s hand and mouth when
the toy breaks open; watch out for broken parts, seams and edges; and opt for washable stuffed toys.
- Avoid battery-operated toys that are not firmly secured as batteries and their chemical ingredients may cause internal bleeding, chemical burns and choking when ingested.
- Avoid toys that tend to induce aggression and violence such as toy guns, knives and other toy weapons.
After buying a toy, the EcoWaste Coalition advised consumers to:
1. Remove and keep the toy plastic packaging out of children’s reach to avoid risk of suffocation. Refrain from throwing reusable toy boxes and wrappers to the bin; find other functional uses for toy packaging to reduce waste.
2. Follow carefully the procedures for proper toy assembly and use and keep the instructions for reference.
3. Teach a child how to play safely, and closely supervise small children to help prevent any untoward incidents.
4. Check toys regularly for signs of wear or broken pieces that may cause injury, and keep toys clean.
5. Teach a child to put toys away after play to avoid accidents.