Health Hazards Called Toys!

toys.jpgLast year, consignments of around 20 toys were recalled by international brands such as, Mattel, FunSkool, Matchbox, Fisher Price, Disney, Hasbro, etc. The toys were recalled owing to various reasons such as, potential choking hazards, presence of lead paints, and dangerous magnets in the toys. Most of these toys are manufactured by The Contract Companies in China. They are able to evade quality control due to various uncharted loopholes that have emerged since new systems of production chains have come into place.

While larger companies have the institutional mechanisms for call backs and checking for hazards, toys of smaller, unknown companies, especially those from Taiwan and China that have been flooding the Indian market for the past few years, have no such provision in place.

Imported toys enter the Indian market primarily through two ways – one through company franchises and the other through private importers, the latter being more in number. Private importers rarely stress on quality control, accounting for a huge number of Chinese and Taiwanese use-and-throw toys that are cheaper and more enticing, but are possibly toxic and hazardous. Most of these toys usually have high amounts of lead in the paints they use.

Indigenous toy brands in India are also far from safe for children. The Government has not taken up a proactive role in enforcing any of the quality control regulations that have been developed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). This is a national body that covers the development of technical standards for consumer goods in India to check the quality of toys. Furthermore, cheap toys that children insist for, at balloon stands, toy vendors, etc, are usually made from contaminated plastic that comes from multiple recycles.

With the toy market in India being so unregulated and children becoming more and more demanding, parents need to exercise vigil and caution while buying toys for their children. Owners of toy stores say that parents have to be sure about the kind of toys they buy for their children. It is true that parents have become more cautious after the recall of Mattel toys. However, a lot of people still go in for unbranded toys at reduced prices as they are economically feasible. The latest sensation, the blazing yoyo for example, is available at rates that starts from Rs.25 and go on till Rs.200. Many middle class consumers, thus, go in for cheaper versions of more expensive toys because the longevity and popularity of toys is extremely short-lived.

Parents should check the package for some sort of quality control regulation. The largest toy brand in the world, Mattel, and its other divisions such as Matchbox, Fisher Price, and Funskool, follow ASTM F963 Code, for ensuring quality control in its toys. Indian toys usually carry an ISO hologram if they have passed through quality inspection. Checking Chinese and Taiwanese toys can pose some problems owing to the language. However, they must carry some sort of prescribed age-limit and symbols denoting any potential choking hazards. It is also best to advice slightly older children against oral contact with any visibly shiny toys they may already possess. Keeping such toys off limits for younger children is best, to be on the safer side.

Moonmoon Ghosh.

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