A week before the government is expected to lift a two-year ban on import of toys, a study has found that many toys sold in India contain an asthma-triggering chemical way above European limits.
Content of phthalates — chemical used to soften plastic — is three to 160 times higher than the European standards, says a study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based NGO.
All 24 samples lifted from markets in Delhi had phthalates. In 46 per cent of the toys, the chemical was higher than the European Union limit of 0.1 per cent of mass of the plasticised material, said CSE director Sunita Narain while releasing the findings on Friday.
More than half the samples (57 per cent) violating the EU limit were made in China, which accounts for 60 per cent of India’s toy imports. Second in the list were Taiwanese toys. Only seven per cent of Indian products exceeded the limit.
Imports are allowed if toys come with a safety certificate.
Rajesh Arora, general secretary of the Toy Association of India, said the industry was meeting western standards for phthalates for exports. For domestic market, he said, there were no such standards.
Voluntary criterion had been laid out by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), but phthalates were not a covered, Chandra Bhushan, associate director with CSE, said. “India needs a mandatory standards to ensure children’s safety,” Narain said, adding the government should regulate all toys — Indian as well as foreign-made.
In some cases even “non-toxic” label is not enough. In a Funskool India Limited’s soft toy — declared safe for children aged 3-18 years — phthalate content was 162 times above the safe limit, says the study.
The ban on import of toys not meeting BIS’s voluntary standards ends on January 23.