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Your kids’ toys can trigger asthma: Study

Many local and foreign-made toys sold in India have been found to be contaminated with phthalates — chemicals used to soften the plastic used in manufacturing toys — which retard the growth of reproductive organs and trigger asthma in children, a study by a Delhi-based NGO says. Chetan Chauhan reports...

delhi Updated: Jan 15, 2010 01:23 IST
Chetan Chauhan

The next time you buy your child a toy, you might want to give plastic a miss.

Many local and foreign-made toys sold in India have been found to be contaminated with phthalates — chemicals used to soften the plastic used in manufacturing toys — which retard the growth of reproductive organs and trigger asthma in children, a study by a Delhi-based NGO says.

The study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) — previewed by HT and to be released on Friday — says that in the absence of any standards for phthalates in India, highly contaminated toys are being sold across the country.

Government agencies don’t test toys for their impact on children’s health.

The CSE did this. It tested toys made in India as well as in China, Taiwan and Thailand (these countries contribute to 70 per cent of imported toys sold in India) and meant for children less than three years of age — mostly chew toys like teething rings. It found high levels of phthalate contamination.

“The toxins in the toys were much higher than prescribed limits in the US and Europe,” said a researcher. What is worse, many of the companies whose toys were tested sell similar but safer products to Europe and the US.

This isn’t the first instance of toxic toys. In 2007, a Delhi-based research group, Toxic Links, found dangerous levels of lead in toys, prompting the government to introduce a voluntary standard for the metal.

Then, in 2008, the United States banned the sale of Chinese toys with high lead content. India followed suit but lifted the ban when China pointed out that India did not have any standards on toys.

“India has allowed Chinese toys with a certificate of safety till January 23,” said a CSE researcher who didn’t want to be named. “After that, toys without certificates will be sold… We need mandatory standards for toys sold in our country.”