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Issue 10
, 2009
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Toy Story

Ban on Chinese toys : effective?
Source: Daily News & Analysis,Mumbai, Date: , 2009

colourful toyIndia may have banned import of Chinese toys till June, but children will continue to be exposed to risks of liver damage or disruption of mental health due to alarming levels of toxic lead and cadmium found in toys that are still being sold, experts maintain.

"And with 130mn children in India under the age of six, it is time the government makes it mandatory for Indian manufacturers to adopt the toy safety standard that at present is voluntary and followed only in the organised sector," they add. "Dangerous levels of lead and cadmium were found in PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and soft toys sold in India," said Ravi Agarwal of non-government forum Toxics Link, which conducted a study on the safety of toys sold in the metros.

"We found that all toy samples examined contained varying concentration of lead and cadmium," Agarwal said, adding the study was recently presented to the United Nations Environment Programme and the Indian government. "We did not differentiate between Chinese and Indian toys in the study. But we can say that since the materials used by Indian manufacturers are similar - like paint that has lead and PVC that has cadmium - the toxicity will also be similar."

He said lead and cadmium are proven poisons, being neurotoxins and nephrotoxins. Neurotoxins are agents that can cause toxic effects on the nervous system while nephrotoxins can cause toxic effects on the kidney.

Even the tiniest amounts can have long-term and measurable effects on children, while at the same time displaying no distinctive symptoms. And in the case of lead, some amount is filtered out but the rest is distributed into the blood stream, liver, brain, kidneys and bones.

The Toxics Link study tested 111 toys. It found that 77 had toxic PVC materials; 88 samples that were further tested were found to contain lead and cadmium in varying concentrations.

The results were so alarming that the matter had also figured in parliament last year, when minister of state for health Panabaka Lakshmi said the government was quite concerned about toxic toys from China.

toyAs per various estimates available, the Indian toy market is worth $2.5 billion, of which $1.5 billion is the output of the unorganised sector, over which the government has little control.

While 30% of the market is accounted for by soft toys - which along with plastic toys pose the maximum health hazard - imports account for 40% of toy merchandise, the bulk of it from China.

According to a senior commerce ministry official, the government will soon take a call on a similar ban on Indian toys in consultation with the consumer affairs ministry and the Bureau of Indian Standards.

"Since China is also a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), all imports from China are entitled to national treatment. We cannot appear to be imposing a non-
tariff barrier," the official said, requesting anonymity.