Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lead in toys

here's something i picked up from the net. this metal leads to a whole lot of stuff including cancers. parents BEWARE.

Toxic toy story
By Nitin Jugran Bahuguna, 15/11/2007 Source: The Hindu Business Line
When global toy manufacturer Mattel recalled millions of popular children's toys sold under its Fisher-Price brand in mid-August and September this year, as they were found to contain dangerous levels of toxic elements, concerns were raised for the first time in India about the toxicity of toys.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. The study was conducted by Delhi-based NGO Toxics Link. According to Dr Abhay Kumar of Toxics Link and a co-author of the study, 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. He emphasises that when chewed or sucked by children, these toys put them at great risk.Health riskIndia has more than 130 million children below the age of six — an age when children chew and even swallow substances. This makes a large section of the population prone to lead and cadmium poisoning from toys. A large amount of these metals in the bloodstream could lead to complications such as brittleness of bones, mental disorders and even cancer, states Kumar.According to Prof Veena Kalra, Head of the Department of Paediatrics, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), 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.The government has confirmed that several Chinese toys sold in the market contain high levels of cadmium and lead. The issue was discussed in the Rajya Sabha recently when Minister of State for Health Panabaka Lakshmi confirmed newspaper reports about toxic toys from China.Observing that most toys in Chennai and Mumbai were being imported from China, the Minister stated that lead is a known neuro and haematological toxin that can lead to delayed development and lower IQ in children, while cadmium primarily affects the kidneys.Lack of enforceable standardWith regard to safety guidelines for toys, the Minister said the Bureau of Indian Standards (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. According to the Toxics Link study, Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai have big toy markets. In fact, Mumbai is the regional hub for plastic toys. Most of the soft toys found there are made of PVC, and Chinese toys dominate. Unbranded toys have a huge demand among lower income groups.At upmarket shops, mostly branded toys are sold. Following the international outcry, Mattel withdrew 2,000 toys in its Batman series from the Indian market.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 cause for grave concern. Given that the toy industry volume is estimated at $1 billion in the organised sector and about $1.5 billion in the unorganised sector, it is alarming that toy manufacturers have not yet registered with the BIS.Cost of safetyBut manufacturers have their own explanation. “The BIS guidelines with regard to toy production are that it is self-regulatory and not mandatory. Also, toy manufacturers don’t register for the ISI mark for their products because it is an expensive procedure,” says Paresh Chawala, President, Toy Association of India.The association consists of 600 members, 250 wholesalers and 350 distributors. Chawala, however, agrees that in view of the ongoing controversy, the industry would need to take a more proactive approach, keeping in mind consumer concerns. “We held a meeting recently and decided to get all the information relating to the BIS rules so we can start the process for getting the ISI mark,” he says.

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