EcoWaste Coalition Seeks Benzene Ban in Children's Toys
While long banned in developed countries, toys containing benzene, a chemical classified as “carcinogenic to humans,” are still sold in the domestic market.
The continued sale of plastic balloon blowing kits with a solvent mixture containing benzene prompted the EcoWaste Coalition to ask the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the regulatory agency in charge of toys and child care articles, to impose a ban on benzene in toys and other children’s products.
In a letter sent to the FDA on December 10, 2022 coinciding with the International Human Rights Day, the EcoWaste Coalition, supported by 15 public interest groups, called for a “swift regulatory action” to protect the right of every child not to be exposed to hazardous substances like benzene, one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” as per the World Health Organization (WHO).
“In the interest of preventing children’s exposure to carcinogenic benzene in toys, we request the FDA to immediately ban benzene in plastic balloon blowing kits, and stop further sale and use of such benzene-containing toys,” wrote Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition. “We further urge the FDA to disallow toys and other children’s products containing and releasing volatile organic compounds (VOCs).”
The toxics watchdog group pushed for benzene ban in toys after confirming the presence of this hazardous chemical in three plastic balloon products that it bought from toy vendors in Divisoria, Manila and subsequently submitted to a non-profit research institute for laboratory analysis.
Based on the analysis conducted by the Philippine Institute of Pure and Applied Chemistry (PIPAC) using Headspace-Gas Chromatography, J.H. Toy Space Balloons, Bili Plastic Balloons, and Haida Taikong Space Balloons were found to contain 26, 31 and 44 parts per million (ppm) of benzene, respectively, exceeding the 5 ppm limit for benzene in toys under European Union’s regulations.
Prior to this, J.H. and Haida Taikong plastic balloons were found to emit 28 to 167 ppm of VOCs as determined through Photoionization Detector (PID) tests conducted by the Toxicology Referral and Training Center at the East Avenue Medical Center.
“Human exposure to benzene has been associated with a range of acute and long-term adverse health effects and diseases, including cancer and hematological effects,” according to the WHO, warning “children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relative low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage.”
In Canada, benzene is banned in toys, and plastic balloon blowing kits have been prohibited there since 1973. In Australia, plastic balloons cannot contain benzene. In Europe, benzene in toys cannot exceed 5 ppm. And in the USA, benzene has been banned as an ingredient in products for use in the home, including toys.
In banning plastic balloon blowing kits, Health Canada explained that “children can be fascinated with these products, and if they blow balloons for extended periods they may experience early symptoms of central nervous system depression or dysfunction, including euphoria, hallucinations, dizziness, and difficulties with coordination of voluntary movements.”
“We trust the FDA will issue a directive soon banning benzene in toys, particularly in plastic balloon blowing kits,” the EcoWaste Coalition said. “Hazardous substances that can seriously harm a child’s health have no place in all children’s products.”