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Some toys sold in Davao found to contain toxic material

/ 04:55 PM July 27, 2011

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Using an x-ray florescence (XRF) analyzer, a senior scientist from the global environment group International POPS Elimination Network (IPEN) tested some 135 toys randomly picked in the malls and sidewalks of Bankerohan street here and found some of them to contain highly toxic chemicals such as lead and cadmium.

In a public forum here, Dr. Joseph DiGangi, IPEN senior science and policy adviser, screened with the handheld gadget a children’s puzzle mat, popularly used in nursery and pre-school rooms here, and found it to contain a high amount of lead, five times the US regulatory limit of 90 ppm.

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University of the Philippines toxicologist Dr. Romy Quijano earlier warned that lead, mercury and other heavy metals in toys can cause brain damage, neuro-behavioral disorders and other serious illness in children.

Among the 135 toys sampled, 22 were found to contain different toxic heavy metals, among them, cadmium, chromium, mercury, lead, arsenic, antimony and others.

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Among other toys being sampled, an infant milk bottle used for storing candies was found to contain a high level of mercury.

Members of the environment group EcoWaste Coalition and the Interface Development Interventions (Idis) had earlier accompanied the scientist in randomly buying 135 toy samples from the Davao stores 568, Haotian Toys, Robinson Toys R Us, SM Toy Kingdom and in stalls in Bankerohan public market.

What the scientist found alarmed local officials.

“These are just few toys, randomly sampled, we have to have more tests in Davao City,”  Councilor Bernard Al-ag, head of the city council’s health committee, said during the public forum, where DiGangi presented the results.

“This is not only a Davao City issue but a national consumer issue,” said Al-ag, a father of two.

He said since there is no toy manufacturing industry in Davao, the toys that are coming here are imported ones. He urged the Food and Drug Administration to create a Task Force that will intensify the monitoring of consumer safety especially among children’s toys.

DiGangi said that even if children are not touching the objects containing lead, they are still vulnerable because the poison can still mix with dust which can be carried in the air they breathe.

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DiGangi, a molecular biologist and biochemist, tested the products with the x-ray florescence (XRF) analyzer, which can detect priority chemicals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury within 30 seconds when they are brought for screening. But he said the device cannot yet detect other dangerous chemicals such as bisphenol A and phthalates, hence, even those samples found to contain low concentrations of metals may not yet be totally safe.

He said XRF is routinely used by private companies and by US regulatory bodies such as the environmental protection agency and the consumer product safety commission.

The FDA, however, assured the office is equipped with the traditional monitoring equipment which can detect other toxic chemicals that could not be detected by XRF.

Dr. Suzette Lazo, FDA director, said they are stepping up the monitoring of consumer projects in the market.

“We enjoin manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers to be more aware of safety issues and to exercise extraordinary diligence in the manufacture and distribution of products and ensuring that these are free of harmful chemicals,” she said.

DiGangi said it should not be the sole preoccupation of the government to check and to police consumer products because it is the prime responsibility of the industry to ensure that their products are safe.

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