Heavy Metal (RR)

Study of Heavy Metalsin children toys in Nepal

Study of Heavy Metals in Children Toys and Campaign for Safe Play in Nepal
From Ancient period, Toys and dolls have been part of a children's daily life till their adulthood. Toys are one of the most favorable things for children to play as we can see children spending all their time with toys. A variety of colorful toys such as dolls, balls, pencil boxes, toy cars, backpacks etc. are available in the market. Playing with toys is an enjoyable means of training the young people in society. Toys and play in general, are important when it comes to growing up and learning about the world around us. The young use toys and play to discover their identity help their bodies grow strong learn cause and effect, explore relationships, and practice skills they will need as adults. Adults use toys and play to form and strengthen social bonds, teach, remember and reinforce lessons from their youth, discover their identity, exercise their minds and bodies, explore relationships, practice skills, and decorate their living spaces.

The forms and design of children playing sets have been changed according to time, situation and development of people. The literature shows that the history of children toys begins from ancient Greek and Roman civilization. With the time the materials from which children toys are made have also changed. There are evidences that toys used to be made from clay, fabric, animal bones, stones, wood, etc. With the use of plastic came into action by 1940s, More toys were made with plastic after 1945. Since then plastic toys covered the world market along with few wooden toys, metal toys and Barbie dolls. These days, most of the toys and dolls found in market are colorful along with addition of several life threatened chemicals like lead, cadmium, etc. to give additional features and attraction to children toys and dolls. These chemicals can cause severe health problems on children and even causes to death on long term exposure.

The study is carried out with help from fellowship under UNEP Eco-Peace Leadership Program, Yuhan-Kimberly University of South Korea by Center for Public Health and Environment Development (CEPHED) in Nepal to know the existing scenario of chemical presence focused on heavy metal presence on children toys and dolls. Also the study is carried out to know about the perception and awareness level, buying behavior, label inspection habit among children toy's consumer i.e. parents, retailers and school with the help of set of questionnaire. During the study, toys were collected from market around Kathmandu Valley and Dhulikhel Municipality. In total 100 toys were purchased from market consisting of composition material plastic (63%), metal (11%), wood (9%), rubber (7%), fabric (4%), clay (3), foam (2%) paper (1%). Toys were coded and sent for test at Nepal Handicraft Testing Laboratory, A public Private Partnership model laboratory operated by Federation of Handicraft Associations of Nepal (FHAN) and Nepal Bureau of Standard and Metrology, Ministry of Industry, Government of Nepal for heavy metal content with help of X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF).

The result from set of questionnaire shows none of the school, retailer or parents are aware about the chemical presence in children products. Though there was clear information and warning of not to sale product for children below 3 years of age, parents and retailers were found carelessness on such critical information during toy purchase or sale. Very few (10%) check labeling during sample purchase let aside the chemical presence in children toys. There is not any authorized governmental body working on particular issue. i.e. chemical presence in children toys and dolls. Most of market (63%) is covered by toys made up of plastic material while dolls are made up of fabric and cotton one. There was very little variety of wooden and magnetic toys available in market. During product purchase, 38% of school opt. for plastic toys while 19% and 15% goes for animal related product and wooden product respectively. During toy purchase, 41% of parents opt. for plastic toys while giving preference on attraction (26%), color (16%) and durability (11%) but none of parents inspect about chemical presence which sound surprising.

As per retailer, no retailer thinks about chemical certification and information regarding manufactured date or expiry date. Majority of product are imported from Chinese market giving some priority (34%) on Indian product as well. Last year only, children product of above NRs. 70 Cr. is imported where Chinese and Indian contribution ranks up as 54% and 36% respectively. Few children products are imported from countries like Sri Lanka, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, USA etc. Study shows there are not any government procedure/requirement which retailers need to fulfill during import or sale of toys and dolls. A laboratory result shows that 54% of the samples have one of the toxic heavy metal. i.e. lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and bromine. 40% of samples have bromine content ranges from 3.6 ppm to 3923.00 ppm whereas 28% of samples have lead content ranging from 15.2 ppm to 8305.8 ppm among which 46.42% of samples have lead content higher than US guideline value. i.e. 90 ppm. 9% of sample has cadmium contain ranging from 16.2 ppm to 409.5 ppm. 33.33% of sample has cadmium contain higher than US Standard i.e. 75 ppm. 1 4% of sample has chromium contain ranging from 9.6 ppm to 2052.2 ppm among which 42.86% has chromium contain higher than the US Standard of 60 ppm. 64.29% of the samples purchased from retailer shop contain toxic chemical whereas very few 1 6.67% purchased from educational enterprises contain toxic chemical in children play-set. Children play-set composed of foam and paper have 100% toxic chemical in them whereas clay (66.67%), metal (54.55%) and plastic (50.79%) play-set contain toxic chemical.

The reason behind this uncontrolled and alarming level of toxic chemical presence in children toys is mainly due to lack of standard, guidelines and regulations. So it is recommended that there should be authorized governmental body to monitor and develop the standard. Also since the majority of market is covered by imported product, there must be strong enactment during import period. Since our study area was unable to cover the hazardous chemical phthalates from children toys due to incapability of laboratory apparatus, the need of laboratory with updated
facility should also be established.

Finally, it is duties for all of us to Keep hazardous chemicals away from children`s toys and ensure their right to play safe.