New Delhi, Jan 15: Parents buying branded plastic toys for their children may be getting more than they have paid for.
A study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a non-governmental organisation, reveals that the high toxic levels present in these toys can lead to asthma, lung problems and reproductive problems in children.
According to the survey released on Friday, Jan 15, high levels of phthalates were found in all the toys which were tested in the pollution monitoring laboratory of CSE.
The level of phthalates found in the toys exceeded even the internationally accepted safety limits.
Phthalates are the chemicals which softens the plastic and helps in making the plastic product cheap and easy, and highly toxic.
"We randomly purchased 24 toys from different parts of Delhi, especially those toys that children are more likely to chew and suck. Out of 24 toys, 15 were soft and nine were hard. These toys were manufactured in China (14), India (7), Taiwan (2) and Thailand (1)," said CSE Associate Director Chandra Bhushan.
Bhusan listed out the names of reknowned toy manufacturing companies who were found using toxic materials beyond the accepted limit.
"The sample included major brands like Funskool and Mattel. In our test we detected one or more phthalates in all toys. Taiwanese and Chinese toys were the most contaminated. Taiwan toys exceeded the safe limits by 100 percent. While eight out of 14 toys manufactured in China exceeded the limits," he said.
However, he said that only one Indian company was found using chemical beyong the safety limit.
"Pip Squeaks, a toy manufactured by Funskool Ltd, for 3-18 months old had highest levels of phthalates. It exceeded the standards by 162 times. Worse, the label on the toy says - non-toxic, suitable for ages 3-18 months," Bhushan said.
CSE director Sunita Narain said that the most vulnerable to phthalates as they are inclined to put the toys into their mouth.
"Children under three years are more likely to be exposed to phthalates because they tend to chew and suck on plastic toys and since their metabolic, endocrine and reproductive systems are immature, they are more vulnerable as well," said CSE director Sunita Narain.
Citing the absence of regulations to control the use of phthalates in toys, Narain drew attention on the risk to children's health in such a situation.
"It only has voluntary standards covering safety aspects of toys. On Jan 23, the government ban on import of toys not meeting these standards will end. In the unregulated free-for-all that threatens to follow, the health of children will be compromised, putting them at a huge risk."
In the backdrop of the expiry of imports regulation on Jan 23, 2010, Bhushan offered the government two options.
"Either regulate all toys, both domestic production and imports. Second, and the easier option, let the order expire and leave the entire market unregulated, endangering the health and safety of children. As things stand now, the government does not want to make the effort to make standards mandatory for all," he added.
Laboratory test done on mammals revealed that along with causing damage to male reproductive system, impairing the lungs and affecting the duration of pregnancy, it can also lead to asthma, allergies, poor semen quality, genital defects, premature breast development and skeletal defects.