Toxic toys found in Davao tests

Posted on July 27, 2011

DAVAO CITY -- A fourth of toys and child products randomly sampled in the city contained levels of toxic metals much higher than the limit set by US regulatory agencies, according to advocacy groups.

Rubber puzzle mat: toxic material?

The EcoWaste Coalition and the International POPs Eliminations Network (IPEN), along with the Interface Development Interventions, a local nongovernmental organization, scanned with a hand-held x-ray fluorescence analyzer at least 135 branded and Chinese-made children’s products in five department stores, public markets and ukay-ukay (secondhand) stalls where high toxicity ratings were observed.

The groups recently completed their survey in Manila and Cebu.

“It doesn’t mean that when you go to expensive stores you have a guarantee that the products are safe. Also toys in cheap markets are not all toxic because some are safe,” said Joseph A. DiGangi, senior science and policy adviser of IPEN.

In a forum yesterday that presented results of the study, Mr. DiGangi said 22 samples contained lead ranging from 92 parts per million (ppm) to 1,700 ppm. The US limit is 90 ppm.

The second most common metal found in the samples was antimony (13%), a lesser known metal, which is proven to cause cancer, skin irritation and fertility problems.

Products tested include the rubber puzzle mat usually placed in play centers and preschools, super hero toys, cartoon mugs and saucers, mini-billiard set, a horse toy, dolls, accessories for girls, remote control car, and painting set.

The tests cover 20 metals including lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, antimony and arsenic.

Mr. DiGangi, a molecular biologist and biochemist, said other samples that tested negative are not yet cleared the x-ray analyzer can only detect heavy metals. There are inorganic chemicals such as bishphenol A and phthalates, which are used as plasticizers.

Councilor Bernard E. Al-ag, chairman of the committee on health, said the city government’s Business Bureau can require manufacturers, distributors and retailers for certification from the Department of Health or the Food and Drug Administration that their products contain no harmful ingredients.

“I hope we can be able to find solutions together, the nongovernmental organizations, government sector and the private sector,” he said.

For her part, Gloria O. Raut, chief engineer of the Health Support Division, Environment and Occupational Health Sector, said the Department of Health has conducted a survey of toys in malls in 2008 after Administrative Order 32-2007 was issued that required proper labeling.

She said the survey found a significant number of retailers and manufacturers don’t have the license to operate. The findings were sent to the central office but the survey was not repeated since then.

“I suggest to the city council to immediately create a task force to conduct inspections in malls and look for the LTO (license to operate),” she said. -- Joel B. Escovilla