Beware poisonous toys

Guest post by chinadialogue intern Li Cheng

Now parents have to add toys to melamine contaminated milk powder and carcinogenic skin cream on the list of potential hazards to their children’s health. On December 7, Greenpeace issued a report on the heavy metal content of children’s products in five Chinese cities. According to the study, one in three such products contains poisonous heavy metals. 

Greenpeace and the International Persistent Organic Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) randomly purchased 500 different toys, articles of stationary and other children’s products in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan and Hong Kong. The study detected 6 heavy metals among them (lead, antimony, arsenic, cadmium and mercury) and found lead contamination to be particularly pronounced.

The American Center for Disease Control has stated that there is no safe dosage for lead. Lead poisoning in children can lead to learning disorders and other long-term health problems. In the United States and Canada, the legal limit for lead in consumer goods is 90ppm, while in China it is 600ppm. But this study discovered one toy signet ring that had over 200 times China’s legal limit.

Heavy metals in children’s products are chiefly found in product coatings or in additives used during the manufacturing process. Children who touch, lick or bite these toys will be exposed to these heavy metals

Greenpeace pollution prevention project director Wu Yixiu said: “The heavy metals in these products will not decrease over time. On the contrary, they will migrate to the surface.”

Another problem that deserves our attention is that Chinese regulations only control eight kinds of soluble element (if a child were to accidentally consume one of these toy parts, the heavy metals would be dissolved by the stomach acids) and in general there is no control over lead content or other heavy metals. The European Union, by contrast, regulates 20 kinds of soluble element.

Plasticisers found in various children’s products have already caused widespread concern in China. It’s more important to strengthen regulations in toys industry than to educate parents to read the product labels carefully. 

Translated by chinadialogue volunteer James Barnard