With the toy shopping spree well underway as Christmas nears, a toxics watchdog group calls on businesses to strictly comply with a 12-year old law to make sure that toys containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) called phthalates are not produced, imported, and offered for sale.
EcoWaste Coalition made the clarion call as the 12th anniversary of the issuance of the Department of Health Administrative Order 2009-0005-A is observed.
Issued on December 14, 2011, the said order makes it unlawful for any person to manufacture for sale, offer for sale, distribute in commerce, or import into the country any children’s toy that contains concentrations of more than 0.1 percent of di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP) or benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP).
It further disallows toys that can be placed in a child’s mouth that contain more than 0.1 percent of diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) or di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP).
Found in a wide range of toys and other children’s products, especially those made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, phthalates are able to leach out from the materials containing them and get ingested, inhaled, or absorbed by the skin.
The group noted that despite the directive restricting phthalates in toys, PVC toys laden with phthalates are still found in the market. For example, the group last October monitored the online sale of a flying spinner toy, which the Swedish government banned for containing excessive amounts of DBP and DEHP, as well as toxic lead and short-chain chlorinated paraffins.
Last year, seven baby care and toy products with PVC components, including a doll, boxing gloves and mini basketball, submitted by the EcoWaste Coalition to a global testing company for phthalate analysis were found contaminated with DBP, DEHP and DINP.
The FDA in August last year issued an advisory warning consumers against the purchase and use of a bathtub dog playset that was tested and found adulterated with high levels of phthalates, particularly DBP and DEHP.
Despite being banned by the FDA in 2015 and again in 2021, the group’s vigilant monitoring has confirmed the continuing sale of cheap artificial nails marketed for children’s use that come with an adhesive containing DBP. This product is often sold in stores outside public schools.
“It is very likely that more soft plastic toys containing restricted phthalates are sold in the market as current regulations do not prohibit the use of PVC in toys,” said Manny Calonzo, Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. “As the PVC ban on toys is not yet in place, we urge business establishments to refrain from selling soft toys that are not authorized, certified and labeled PVC- and phthalate-free,” he added, stressing “unauthorized toys which have not gone through the FDA’s notification process may pose health risks to children.”
Studies in animals and humans have linked phthalate exposure to a wide range of health problems, including asthma and allergic illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, neurodevelopmental disorders such as attention deficits, learning difficulties and intellectual disability, and reproductive health disorders such as genital abnormalities. Exposure to phthalates even in tiny amounts can affect the essential functions of the endocrine system.
To prevent children’s exposure to phthalates in toys and related products, the EcoWaste Coalition advises consumers to:
- Steer clear of products made of PVC, vinyl or plastic marked #3.
- Refrain from buying soft and squeaky plastic toys unless certified phthalate-free.
- Avoid plastic products with a strong chemical smell.
- Purchase duly authorized and labeled products from licensed distributors, wholesalers and retailers.
- Look for reliable phthalate-free marks on the product label.
It is important that toy safety laws and standards, including the mandatory labeling requirements as specified in Republic Act No. 10620, are fully enforced and that manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers, including online sellers, only offer toys that are safe and toxic-free, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized. It is also imperative that consumers actively assert and exercise their rights to product information and to be protected against hazardous chemicals in products, the group added.
Overall, the Ecowaste Coalition is also campaigning for a “Zero Waste Pasko” to encourage everyone to conserve resources and lessen the traditional holitrash (holiday + trash) during the festive celebrations. The group reiterates that the best gift this Christmas season is a healthy mind and body, away from EDCs and other hazardous substances that pose a real threat to the public’s health and well being.