Toys may not be all that harmless

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Tuesday 31 October 2006

Mumbai tops lead content in to the next time you go shopping for toys for your tiny tots, take care to be judicious. A recent study carried out by the ngo Toxics Link in the Indian metros of Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, has stressed the need to regulate the toy industry. Reason: materials used contain heavy metals, lead and cadmium in them. Researchers contend that even small amount of heavy metals during the growing age, till about six years, is detrimental to the health of children. The adverse effects of lead include retarded mental development, and cadmium affects kidneys.

A total of 111 toys were collected by the ngo from the three cities and tested for the polymer Polyvinyl Chloride (pvc). To protect the pvc from degradation due to exposure to environment, lead or cadmium is added to it as stabilisers. These stabilisers are not bound to the polymer, but freely available to leach out over time or in response to light or chewing.

Seventy-seven toys were found to be made of pvc and these were tested for the total content of lead and cadmium. 11 non- pvc toys were also tested. The results showed that though the concentration of both the metals varied widely, they were present in all samples nonetheless. The amount of lead ranged from a minimum of 0.65 parts per million (ppm) to a maximum of 2,104 ppm. Cadmium varied between 0.016 and 188 ppm. "Material change would be the perfect solution," says Prashant Pastore of Toxics Link.

Although India has joined the National Programme for Development of Toy Industry, a us $2 million joint programme launched by the ministry of small scale industries, the Toy Association of India, the Small Industries Development Bank of India and International Centre for Advancement of Manufacturing Technology/ unido, there is a need to ensure that the industry gives up pvc even though it is cheaper for them to use it.

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