Toxic toys for sale in Manila

Months before Christmas, toys sold in Manila are found to contain harmful levels of toxic metals

NOT SO INNOCENT. Found to contain toxic metals, these toys can pose serious health risks to children. Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Who knew a doll could be so dangerous?

This soft, peacefully slumbering doll–perfect for toddlers–is the most toxic of the 200 toys surveyed by green group EcoWaste Coalition for toxic metal content.

It contains 23,200 parts per million (ppm) of lead, alarmingly surpassing the 90 ppm limit for lead set by the Department of Trade and Industry and US Consumer Product Safety Commission. It also registered 8,909 ppm  of chromium, 1,441 ppm of arsenic (a chemical found in pesticides nd car batteries) and 655 ppm of cadmium (a substitute for lead).

The doll is just one of the toys with high levels of toxic metals being sold in stores in Manila.

DANGEROUS DOLL. This squeaky toy is the most toxic of all, registering the second-highest level of lead and containing 3 more toxics: arsenic, chromium and cadmium. Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler

In preparation for the Christmas season when products like these appear most often in stores, EcoWaste Coalition conducted a sampling of toys being sold in formal and informal toy stores in Divisoria, Ermita, Paco, Malate, Quiapo and Sta Cruz.

Of the 200 assorted toys the group bought worth P10 to P180 each, 94 or 47% were found to contain one or more toxic metals above regulatory limits which increases the harm they pose to customers. The toxics found were arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury.

The group used a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer to detect the harmful substances.

Harms to health

Lead, the most harmful metal, was found in 76 of the toys, reported the group during a September 25 press conference.

A yellow “Winnie the Pooh” toddler’s chair, the type commonly used in daycare centers, was found to contain the most number of lead: 26,900 ppm.

Lead exposure in children through ingestion, inhalation or dermal contact can result in mental retardation, learning difficulties, lower intelligence quotient scores, growth delays and behavioral problems, anemia, hearing loss and kidney injury, according to toxicologist Bessie Antonio.

“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 are very susceptible to the damaging effects of lead and other toxicants,” she added.

The group also observed that most of the toys did not have labels of chemicals or materials used to make the toy. The product labels they spotted revealed that 20 of the toys had “license to operate” numbers, indicating that a majority of the toys did not go through registration procedures and the few that did got away with harmful toxic content.

Here are tips for consumers and Christmas shoppers to avoid buying toxic toys:

1. Stay away from toys with flaky paint as they are likely to contain lead.
2. Read the labels of the toys for substances and materials it contains. If there is no label, ask the store staff.
3. Find out if the toy-seller, distributor and manufacturer of the toy have licenses to operate.
4. Keep receipts so you can present them when you make a complaint.
5. Notify the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Health if you find toys with toxic content.

Laws needed

The findings strengthen the urge of environmentalists and health advocates for stricter laws banning toxic toys.

The Toy and Game Safety Labelling Act of 2013 (Republic Act 10620), signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III only last September 3, still lacks Implementing Rules and Regulations. The FDA and DOH need only convene stakeholders to finalize the IRR that would give the law teeth.

The Coalition is also appealing for bipartisan support to House Bill 62 filed by Representative Anthony Del Rosario and Senate Bill 1095 filed by Senator JV Ejercito, or the proposed “Safe and Non-Toxic Toys Act of 2013.”

Top 14 toxic toys

These particular samples of toys commonly found in stores in Manila were found to contain the highest level of toxics:

TOY FURNITURE. This sample of a yellow-painted metal 'Winnie the Pooh' chair with back rest, 26,900 ppm of lead. All photos courtesy of EcoWaste Coalition

MUG. This sample of 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

SPORTING TOY. This sample of a black and yellow 'SpongeBob SquarePants' PVC plastic boxing gloves with 9,356 ppm of lead

TOY DRAGON. This sample of a red and green dragon with 5,207 ppm of lead

CARTOON FIGURE. This sample of a Pocket Bola 'Pikachu' character, with 5,165 ppm of lead

WRITING TOOL. This sample of a mini-white board with 'SpongeBob Squarepants' and 'Patrick' characters with 4,128 ppm of lead

SOFT BALL. This sample of a 'King Sports' soft stuffed ball with 3,902 ppm of lead

BODY ACCESSORY. This sample of a green 'Ben 10' wrist strap with 3,257 ppm of lead

TOY CAR. This sample of a 'Grand Prix Formula 1' toy car with 2,000 ppm of lead

MONEY BOX. This sample of a whale-like ceramic money box with 1,451 ppm of lead, 1,582 ppm of cadmium and 2,047 ppm of chromium

TOY GUN. This sample of an unlabeled toy gun with 978 ppm of lead

ACTION FIGURE. This sample of a police action figure with 344 of lead

MUSICAL TOY. This sample of a 'Spence' xylophone with 296 ppm of lead

TOY COSMETICS. This sample of a 'Pretty Girl' make-up set with 92 ppm of mercury


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