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Watch out for deadly toys

A study finds high levels of toxic metals in unbranded toys made with soft plastic, reports Avishek G Dastidar.

india Updated: Sep 19, 2006 02:21 IST

Those cute little toys may make your child happy now but in the long run, they can decrease the IQ, cause learning disability and even harm its liver and kidneys. A new study by an NGO has found that unbranded toys made with soft plastic called Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) contain high levels of toxic metals like lead and cadmium. Given that these are sold in every nook and cranny of the country, the problem highlighted by Toxics Link is bound to worry many a parent.

“This should ring the alarm bells for all because the Indian market for this kind of toys is worth a whopping $1.5 billion (nearly Rs 700 crore) and growing. This means that millions of children play with these toys every day,” said Ravi Aggarwal, director, Toxics Link, which conducted the study.

The NGO collected 111 toys from Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai and tested them at a government-accredited lab in Delhi. They found that all toys made of PVC contained lead and cadmium. The level in a large percentage of the samples was found to be far higher than the US regulatory standard of 200 ppm of lead. “Delhi and Mumbai together make around 95 per cent of all the toys produced and sold in India. Being cheaper than branded toys, they find more takers,” said Dr Abhay Kumar, senior programmes officer of the NGO.

Toy manufacturers dismissed the findings as baseless. “There has never been a single medical case that proves beyond doubt that toys made of PVC harm children,” RK Varma, president of Toy Manufacturers Association of India, said. “In India, we are yet to have any regulation on the use of such toxins in the manufacturing of toys. Besides, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) does not have a standard for such toys. For manufacturers, it only has some rules which are voluntary rather than compulsory.” Aggarwal said.

Responding to that, BIS spokesman HL Kaul told HT that it was not up to the BIS to enforce standards. “For such toy manufacturers, we have certain safety codes. Enforcing that is beyond our power,” he said.