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A Toxics-Free Future


Local activists want action against toxic chemicals in toys

The Guardian Reporter

LOCAL health and environmental conservations activists are putting pressure on regulators to impose stringent guidelines on locally manufactured and imported children’s toys as studies show that they are harmful.

AGENDA Tanzania officials, Silvani Mng’anya and Dorah Swai told Smart Money recently that lead is a poisonous substance which not only endangers people’s health but also the environment.

“We need to take measures to stop local manufacturers who use lead as an ingredient in toy making but also impose restriction imports,” said Mng’anya who is AGENDA Tanzania senior officer.

He said it is taking a lot of time by local regulators to come up with standards to regulate the toys which are currently being sold cheaply in the local market.

“Most parents don’t know about the dangers of buying their kids toys with lead which is toxic,” said Swai who is also AGENDA Tanzania top campaign official against lead and mercury products.

Meanwhile a new global survey by IPEN and Arnika has found out that recycling plastics containing toxic flame retardant chemicals found in electronic waste results in contamination of the world’s best-selling toy along with other children’s products.

Ironically, the chemical contaminants can damage the nervous system and reduce intellectual capacity but are found in Rubik’s Cubes – a puzzle toy designed to exercise the mind.

The IPEN (a global civil society network) and Arnika (an environmental organization in the Czech Republic) study established that toxic chemicals, OctaBDE, DecaBDE and HBCD are used in the plastic casings of electronic products and if they are not removed, they are carried into new products when the plastic is recycled.

The survey of products from 26 countries found that 90 percent of the samples contained OctaBDE or DecaBDE. Nearly half of them 43 percent contained HBCD. These chemicals are persistent and known to harm the reproductive system and disrupt hormone systems, adversely impacting intelligence, attention, learning and memory.

“Toxic chemicals in electronic waste should not be present in children’s toys,” said Leslie Adogame, SRAdev Nigeria. “This problem needs to be addressed globally and nationally,” Adogame argued.

The study emerges just a few days before the global Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention will decide whether to continue allowing the recycling of materials containing OctaBDE and possibly makea new recycling exemption for DecaBDE.The treaty’s expert committee has warned against the practice.

“Recycling materials that contain toxic chemicals contaminates new products, continues exposure and undermines the credibility of recycling,” said Pam Miller, IPEN Cochair. “Governments should end this harmful loophole,” Miller argued. In another critical decision of the Stockholm Convention Conference will be to establish hazardous waste limits. Protective hazardous waste limits would make wastes subject to the treaty’s obligations for destruction – and not permit their recycling. Surprisingly, some of the toxic chemical levels in children’sproducts in this study exceeded proposed hazardous waste limits.

“We need protective hazardous waste limits,” said Jitka Strakova, Arnika. “Weak standards mean toxic products and dirty recycling, which often takes place in low and middle income countries and spreads poisons from recycling sites into our homes and bodies. “

The application of strict hazardous limits is also critical for brominated flame retardants due to their presence in e-waste. In many countries, the Stockholm Convention standards will be the only global regulatory tool that can be used to prevent import and export of these contaminated wastes, in many cases from countries with stricter legislation to countries with weaker legislation or control.

Tanzania Bureau of Standards has since 2014 been preparing regulations to restrict lead and other chemicals used in making toys and decorative paints. But activists feel that TBS has been slow in coming up with the measures to curb the ingredient’s use locally.

Under East African Community (EAC) there are agreed standards on various types of paint to not exceed 90 parts per million.

The EAC standards, adopted in 2014 are supposed to be implemented nationally by the five EAC countries including Tanzania at latest by November 2016. Because of its hazardous properties, the limit of lead in paint was due to legally binding next year.