China toys reign Indian market despite toxic threats

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New Delhi, Nov 21: Even as the scare over toxic toys from China continues to grip the world, the import of Chinese toys in India has increased to Rs 240.63 crore in 2006-07 from Rs 179.92 crore in 2005-06.

Recently, a large number of Chinese toys were found to be high in concentration of poisonous chemicals like lead and cadmium, which resulted in companies like Mattel recalling its production consignments.

In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha today, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jairam Ramesh said the Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow had conducted a study to survey the types and quality of plastic toys to which the children could be exposed.

The study suggested that natural, non-toxic pigments and dyes should be promoted and toys manufactured using standard procedures will help in minimising the possible leaching of harmful ingredients during use.

The Minister also said these Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) standards were neither mandatory on domestic manufacturers nor on imports. He added that the Ministry of Micro, Medium and Small Enterprises has set up testing facilities for evaluation of toys at Testing centres at Mumbai and the national capital.

A study on the toxic elements present in toys sold in Indian markets has revealed shockingly high levels of lead and cadmium, in varying concentrations, in all of the 111 toys collected from Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai last year.

Lead and cadmium act as stabilisers in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) toys. Manufacturers also use PVC to add bright colours to the toys in order to attract children. These, when chewed or sucked by children, pose a great risk. A large amount of these metals in the bloodstream could lead to complications such as brittleness of bones, mental disorders and even cancer.

India has more than 130 million children below the age of six, which offers a huge potential to the toy business.

Exposure to lead toxicity in children could pose several health hazards such as impaired hearing and growth, affect the child's IQ, lead to nerve disorders, anaemia and even cause death.

Minister of State for Health Panabaka Lakshmi had confirmed newspaper reports about toxic toys from China.

With regard to safety guidelines for toys, Ms Lakshmi ahd said the BIS has published three standards. But, India does not have an enforceable standard for toys and it is doubtful if toy manufacturers have bothered to apply for the ISI mark.

But as the bulk of toys circulating in the cities come from the unorganised industry with no regulatory control, the crisis is far from over.

Over 1,000 units are in the small-sector and a larger number in the cottage sector. The use of cheap recycled plastic is a major cause of concern.

The toy industry volume is estimated at one billion dollars in the organised sector, while the same is expected to be worth 1.5 billion dollars in the unorganised sector, and it it is alarming that toy manufacturers have not yet registered with the BIS.


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