The EcoWaste Coalition and the Museo Pambata today hosted dozens of children and their parents for a “safe toys clinic” to build awareness and support for toy safety as Christmas Day nears.
Held at the Museo Pambata along Roxas Boulevad, the “safe toys clinic,” a component of the EcoWaste Coalition’s campaign for safe toys, provided participants the opportunity to have their favorite toys screened for toxic metals through a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) chemicals analyzer.
The XRF device, which appears like a hair-dryer equipment, can identify and quantify several elements in the periodic table such as toxic metals like cadmium, lead and mercury that may be present in the sample being analyzed.
“Toxic substances should not be present in children’s products such as toys that are meant to help stimulate the senses, explore the creativity and build the skills of kids in a fun and enjoyable way.
Children’s developing brains and bodies are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of chemical exposure early in life,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“Their hand-to-mouth behavior and their tendency to bite and chew on objects increases their exposure to harmful substances that some toys may contain,” he emphasized.
Lead, for instance, is one of the most common hazardous substances found in toys despite being banned in the production of toys under the DENR Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.
Speaking at the event, Dr. Annabelle Sinlao, a lecturer at Manila Central University College of Medicine and resource person of Health Care Without Harm, warned that “even at very low exposures, lead causes serious and permanent health effects, especially for children, such as brain and central nervous system damage.”
Studies have associated lead exposure to mental retardation, decreased bone and muscle growth, hearing, speech and language problems, learning disabilities, low school performance, poor impulse control and aggressive behavior among children, Sinlao said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe."
To help consumers in choosing harmless toys, the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with the following eight-point “Santa’s Guide for Safe Toys”: 1. age-appropriate; 2. well-made; 3. no small parts; 4. string shorter than 12”; 5. injury-free; 6. not coated with lead paint; 7. non-polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic; and 8. labeled and registered.
Common toy hazards include loose or small parts that may be ingested and bring about breathing difficulties or choking; pointed or sharp edges that may injure the eyes or cause cuts and grazes; cords or string longer than 12 inches that may pose strangulation risk; and hazardous chemicals such as lead in paint and phthalates in PVC plastic that may result in health and developmental problems, the group said.
To further educate the kids on the effects of lead poisoning, the group conducted a lively storytelling about “Ang Makulay na Bahay” (The Colorful House) led by physician Dr. Luis Gatmaitan and celebrity Posh Develos. The former wrote the storybook in collaboration with the EcoWaste Coalition.
“Ang Makulay na Bahay” discusses how a child can get lead poisoning, particularly by playing with and biting toys that have lead in them, by sucking on their fingers after playing in the dirt or crawling on the floor, or by eating paint chips or soil that contains lead.
It also discusses practical tips on how to avoid lead exposure such as choosing lead-safe paints and toys, keeping the areas where children play clean and dust-free, and ensuring that kids wash their hands after playing and before eating.