As presidents, prime ministers and other influential leaders from the government and the industry converge in the Philippines for the 31st ASEAN Summit and related meetings, a group of young children, along with their parents and teachers, gathered in Quezon City on Sunday morning to tackle an issue that may not even get cited in any of the conference declarations and statements: the right of children to safe games and toys to play with.
At the launch of the EcoWaste Coalition’s annual advocacy for safe and non-toxic toys, over 150 children joined the fun and music-filled event to call attention to the importance of protecting children from unsafe playthings in the ASEAN and the domestic marketplace.
The event coincided with two historic milestones: the 3rd anniversary of the adoption by the Commission of Human Rights of “The People’s Right to Chemical Safety: A 15-Point Human Rights Agenda” on November 14, and the 28th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 20.
“Through our event today, we hope to draw society’s support to efforts aimed at ensuring children’s access to safe and non-hazardous playthings that will contribute to their full intellectual, emotional and physical development, especially during their formative years,” explained Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Children will easily fall victims to the hidden dangers of low-quality and improperly labeled toys, hence the need to protect them from such dangers that are often unnoticeable to the naked eye,” he said.
"We seek greater cooperation among ASEAN member states and their dialogue partners, particularly China, to safeguard all children from the illegal and unethical trade of toys that are not guaranteed safe for children's use," he added.
During the event, Atty. Vic Dimagiba, President of Laban Konsyumer, Inc. stressed the importance of enforcing R.A. 10620, or the Toy and Game Safety Labeling Act of 2013.
“Over four years have lapsed since the law was approved and we wonder if its Implementing Rules and Regulations will ever see the light of day this year. We have to push for the implementation of this law, which imposes special labeling for games and toys to protect children against potential hazards to their health and safety,” said Dimagiba, a former Department of Trade and Industry undersecretary.
Pediatric toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio warned that toys that have not undergone quality and safety assessment may contain health-damaging chemicals such as cadmium, lead, mercury, phthalates and other hazardous substances.
“Children are exposed to these toxic chemicals that can leach out when they put toys inside their mouth or suck toys containing such substances. Chronic exposure to these chemicals even at low levels may put the growth and development of children at risk,” said Antonio, a doctor at the East Avenue Medical Center.
Chronic exposure to lead even at low doses, for instance, can harm a child’s health over time, affect brain development and result to decreased intelligence as measured by IQ tests, reduced school performance and behavioral problems.
Aside from chemical risk, the EcoWaste Coalition identified other common hazards in toys that consumers should be cautious about, including loose or small parts that may be swallowed and cause breathing difficulties or choking; pointed or sharp edges that may injure the eyes or cause cuts and grazes; and cords longer than 12 inches that cause strangulation.
With Christmas toy shopping spree fast approaching, the EcoWaste Coalition came up with an eight-point “Santa’s Guide for Safe Toys.” Safe toys must be 1) age-appropriate, 2) well-made, 3) no small parts, 4) string shorter than 12 inches, 5) injury-free, 6) not coated with lead paint, 7) not made up of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, and 8) duly labeled and registered.
During the event, the EcoWaste Coalition screened toys brought by the participating children for toxic metals using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.
Among the participants were children, parents and teachers from Buklod Kabataan, ROTCHNA Daycare Center, and the San Vicente Elementary School.