Americans are lucky they have Mattel. But no one is checking Chinese toys coming into India. They come in unregulated, they are sold unchecked and if they are killing children, no one is aware.
It’s not a small market. Toy Association of India president Paresh Chawla says Chinese toys account for 50 per cent of the Rs 2,500-crore toy retail market. And almost 80 per cent of the Chinese toys are sold untested.
“There is no authority to monitor the quality of toys entering the Indian market,” said Ashok Jain of All India Toy Manufacturers Association. An official of Bureau of Indian Standards said, “Unlike cement and other ISI marked products, toys do not come under our preview.”
Most Indians were not even aware these toys could be dangerous till they heard Mattel, a world leader in toys, had twice recalled major consignments of Chinese-made toys because of safety concerns.
“I am worried now,” says a West Delhi mother, Sunanda Anand. Chinese toys are cheaper than their Indian rivals and, according to some, prettier. The gloss sets them apart on the shelves. And that’s at the core of the latest round of problems for Chinese toymakers: they use lead to give their toys that winning shine.
Mattel recalled 9 million Chinese-made toys saying the paint used on these had lead beyond the permissible limit. Also, some varieties had small magnets which could come loose and be swallowed by children. While experts here said there is no reason to panic — toys being just one more source of lead poisoning in India — doctors recommended immediate blood test for children showing signs of anemia and frequent headaches.
Last year, Delhi-based NGO Toxics Link randomly tested toys available in Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai. The study showed that all toys made of polyvinyl chloride were loaded with three toxic metals — lead, cadmium and mercury. The problem lies mainly with the non-branded stuff. Chawla said, “When someone like Mattel takes responsibility for the product, they will ensure that it’s safe.”
But most of the Chinese toys sold in India are unbranded. The packs do not even show the MRP or the date of import or the name of the importer, all three required under import rules.