(Left photo) Cute but toxic - FDA warns against the purchase and use of this unauthorized and adulterated toy. (Right photo) Kids play with floating bath toys unaware of the danger lurking in such vinyl toys. | Photos from EcoWaste Coalition

The toxics watchdog EcoWaste Coalition is urging parents not to buy soft plastic toys unless they’re certified as “phthalate-free” as Christmas shopping approaches.

The group made the warning after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued Advisory No. 2022-1492, warning the public, particularly parents, against buying and using a “Bathtub Dog Playset,” which the agency has determined as “unnotified” and “adulterated.”

According to a report from the FDA laboratory, the said bath toy contains di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or DEHP and dibutyl phthalate or DBP at concentrations reaching 19.4 percent and 0.5 percent, way above the allowable limit of 0.1 percent limit.

“We join our health authorities in urging consumers, as well as toy importers, wholesalers and retailers, to shun this unauthorized toy containing phthalates that are forbidden in children’s toys since 2011,” said Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

She said, “phthalate exposure has been linked to genital abnormalities in boys, decreased ‘male typical’ play in boys, early onset of puberty in boys and girls, increased risks for learning, attention and behavioral disorders, diabetes, obesity, and allergies among children.”

Lucero recalled that a vinyl duck bath toy obtained from a toy retailer and later submitted to a private laboratory for phthalate analysis was also found to contain 18.87 percent DEHP, a chemical compound classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Phthalates are a class of plasticizers used to soften and increase the elasticity of plastics, particularly those made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Classified as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), phthalates can interfere with the way hormones such as estrogen (the primary sex hormone in females) and testosterone (the primary sex hormone in males) control body, brain, and reproductive development.

Due to health concerns, the Department of Health (DOH) in 2011 promulgated Administrative Order No. 2009-0005-A making it “unlawful for any person to manufacture for sale, offer for sale, distribute in commerce, or import into the country any children’s toy that contains concentrations of more than 0.1 percent of di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) or benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP)”.

The said order further prohibits diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) and di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP) in concentrations exceeding 0.1 percent in children’s toys that can be placed in a child’s mouth.

To prevent children’s exposure to health-damaging substances in toys, the EcoWaste Coalition has renewed its call on manufacturers to commit to producing safe toys that are free from hazardous chemical additives such as phthalates, Bisphenol A, flame retardants, formaldehyde, and heavy metals like cadmium and lead.

Recognizing the consumers’ inherent right to product information, the group further urged toymakers to adhere to the mandatory labeling requirements as stipulated under Republic Act 10620, or the Toy and Game Safety Labeling Act, and to list the chemical ingredients on product labels for transparency.

In line with its advocacy for a zero waste and toxics-free future, the EcoWaste Coalition plans to further its advocacy for safe toys as Christmas approaches.

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