Toys sold in India contain dangerous levels of lead

8 September, 2007:

Chinese and Indian toys – both branded and unbranded – available in the Indian market have been found to have high lead content.

A shocking 65% of toys available in India is contaminated with lead, and 14% is heavily contaminated, according to a special investigation conducted by CNN-IBN and Toxic Links, an independent research group. This was the first-ever scientific testing of branded toys available in the Indian market.

In children, lead can cause low IQ, retarded mental growth, and even kidney and liver failure.

Mattel Incorporated had, on September 5, 2007, recalled 7,000 toys in India for high levels of lead paint.

According to Dr Abhay Kumar, coordinator of Toxic Link, low lead exposure for a long time can create lead-related problems. So even if some toys have
lower concentration of 600 ppm (particles per million), they can pose problems for children.

The investigators randomly picked up toys, including those of famous brands like Mattel and Disney, from stores in Delhi and made a startling revelation after scientific tests: 40% of the toys were made in China, and 70% of these contained trace to heavy amounts of lead.

A rubber duck bought at a Lifestyle store contained as much as 631 ppm of lead, well above the international safety standards. (Lead level above 90
ppm in toys is considered dangerous.)

Over 70% of all toys sold in India are made in China, but India has no safety standards for toys. The Bureau of Indian Standards does have voluntary guidelines, but they are seldom followed.

Countries like the United States, says Ravi Agarwal, chairman of Toxic Links, have a consumer protection body which monitors safety and also works with the manufacturers to make sure that the consumer is safe, but India does not have any such arrangement.

Agarwal added: “How much lead is safe? That has been a matter of constant scrutiny. The World Health Organisation has been steadily reducing its safety levels. What this means is that there are no safe levels.”

The contaminated toys are not only Chinese but also branded Indian toys, available at leading stores across the country. “This shows that, even with
branded toys in big stores, you are not sure of what you are getting. Some toys you pick up may have high levels of lead,” Agarwal said.

What is worse, products like teethers, a segment ball and rubber duckie, meant for 3-month-old children, were found to be the most toxic.

The Indian toy industry, which has a turnover of Rs 2,400 crore a year, spends little on safety, say consumer activists.





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