EcoWaste to govt, industry: Remove toxic chemicals in recycled plastic toys
MANILA, Philippines—Environmental rights group EcoWaste Coalition is calling on the government to revamp the country’s recycling protocols after an international study found the presence of highly toxic chemicals in some toys made of recycled plastics, particularly those from electronic waste (e-waste).
The group made the call following the release of a ground-breaking study abroad that illustrated the effects on human cells of dioxins in plastic children’s toys such as those made of black plastic, which is often obtained from recycled e-waste plastic with flame retardant chemicals.
“We urge the country’s toy safety regulators to seriously look into this pioneering study demonstrating the harmful effects of plastic toys made of recycled e-waste plastic on human cells,” EcoWaste Coalition’s chemical safety campaigner Thony Dizon said Wednesday in a release.
“The study shows that children mouthing toys made of this type of plastic may suffer from health effects due to exposure from such toxic material, which should have never been used for consumer products, most especially for toys,” he added.
The analyzed toys in the study contained dangerous concentrations of flame retardants and dioxins that were comparable to levels in hazardous wastes such as the ash from waste incinerators, the EcoWaste Coalition noted.
The study was conducted by researchers from Arnika, BioDetection Systems, and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), a global civil society network – which EcoWaste Coalition is a part of – advocating for a toxics-free future.
“We agree with the researchers’ call for immediate action to change the global recycling systems to prevent hazardous chemical content from entering the recycling chain. It’s a wake-up call for the government and the industry, as well as for consumers, that must not be ignored,” Dizon noted.
The groups noted that the findings of the study concern the health of children globally and highlight “a dangerous flaw in the circular economy model which seeks to reduce plastic waste through increased plastic recycling.”
They noted that the current recycling systems allow plastics with flame retardant chemicals and dioxins to be put into the recycling stream, resulting in dangerously contaminated products made of recycled plastics, such as toys.
Dioxins are considered some of the world’s most toxic chemicals and are extremely harmful even in minimal amounts. Levels of concern for dioxin substances, which begin at a few tenths of a picogram per gram, reached thousands of picograms per gram in some of the samples examined, the EcoWaste Coalition noted.
“Our methodologies using state-of-the-art human and mammalian cells, as well as chemical analyses to assess the toxic impacts of the plastics in this study, advance scientific knowledge about how toxic chemicals in plastics can impact human health. These findings indicate that in many consumer products manufactured with recycled black plastic containing brominated flame retardants (such as PBDEs [Polybrominated diphenyl ethers]), highly toxic brominated dioxin-like compounds are to be expected and should urgently be monitored and prevented,” said Dr. Peter Behnisch, the director of BioDetection Services, the Amsterdam-based laboratory that conducted the analysis.
The group explained that brominated dioxins are highly hazardous chemicals known to affect brain development, damage the immune system, increase the risk of cancer, and risk disruption of thyroid function. These are formed unintentionally during the production of brominated flame retardants.
It added that when plastics with brominated flame retardants are recycled and heated to be re-formed into new plastic products, additional brominated and chlorinated dioxins are formed. Despite not being globally banned, the World Health Organization recognizes brominated dioxins to be as toxic as closely related chlorinated dioxins.
“This study demonstrates that our current system is allowing hazardous materials to be molded into toys. Stricter controls to keeps POPs (persistent organic pollutants) out of consumer goods are a moral imperative. We must stop the flow of e-waste, and plastics with flame retardants, into recycling and set sufficiently strict limits for POPs in waste. Otherwise, we are looking at a toxic circular economy,” Jindrich Petrlik, executive director of Arnika, IPEN advisor and lead scientist for the project noted.
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