Choose safe and non-toxic toys this christmas
CONSUMERLINE - Ching M. Alano (The Philippine Star) - December 11, 2017 - 4:00pm

So, you’re done shopping for toys for your godchildren, whether they’re naughty or nice?  You’ve made your Christmas list and checked it twice, right?

But wait, did you check whether the toys you got were non-toxic and safe? That they don’t contain lead, one of top 10 most dangerous chemicals on the face of the earth.

With just a few more days (and more and more frazzled nerves) to Christmas, EcoWaste, a non-profit watch group on safe toys, gently reminds consumers “to select play things that will not pose health hazards to kids.”
Better watch out and err on the side of caution when shopping for children’s toys as children are susceptible to injuries, chemical exposures, and other hazards.

Thony Dizon, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect coordinator, notes, “Admit it or not, many of us buy toys based on their affordability, attractiveness, color, and packaging.  The quality and safety features of a toy are often an afterthought.”

Dizon adds, “It’s essential to put ‘toy safety’ as the number one criterion for selecting toys as their intended users are prone to various toy hazards, particularly from toys that have not undergone quality and safety assessment. It’s also important to pick age-appropriate toys as not all toys are suitable for all children, especially for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.”

The group tells consumers to steer clear of toys and childcare articles (TCCAs) that have not received proper authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the form of TCCA notifications.   

“Potential hazards (from unnotified toys) may come from materials that are not allowed to be part of a TCCA product or being exposed to chemicals that can leach out from the product such as phthalates and nitrosamines,” FDA warns.

According to environmental health scientist Dr. Theo Colborn, “phthalates (industrial chemicals used to make polyvinyl chloride or PVC plastic pliable and softer), nitrosamines (mostly carcinogenic chemical compounds), and lead (a cumulative toxicant that is most damaging to the brain and the central nervous system) are known endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that can alter hormonal signaling and have potential effects on developing reproductive and nervous systems, metabolism, and cancer.”

Aside from hazardous chemicals, a toy may bring harm rather than joy if it has small parts that may be swallowed by a small child, resulting in breathing difficulties. If it has pointed or sharp edges that may injure the eyes or cause cuts and grazes, or if it has cords longer than 12 inches that may strangle the child.

Check out this list of hazardous toys based on the market monitoring conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition:

Amazing Capsule Creatures.  A similar expandable foam toy was recalled in Spain last year because the capsule can be put into the mouth and ingested by children.  According to the advisory, “as the toy expands, it can cause fatal occlusion of the respiratory tract or intestinal blockage of small children.”

Ninja Fidget Spinner.  Apart from its pointed edges, the yellow decorative paint of this hand spinner has extremely high lead concentrations up to 125,100 parts per million (ppm), way above the 90 ppm limit.  The FDA recently issued a public health warning on hand spinners.

Shrilling Chicken.  Laboratory tests commissioned by the EcoWaste Coalition revealed the presence of DEHP and DBP phthalates up to 19 and 13 percent, respectively, in violation of the maximum allowable limit of 0.1 percent by weight.  Also, Sweden banned a similar product for containing short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCPPs), a type of persistent organic pollutant targeted for global elimination.

To help consumers avoid dangerous toys, our watch group gives the following safe toy shopping tips:

1)  Choose toys with the required TCCA notifications.  A duly notified toy will contain the following information on the product label: the license to operate (LTO) number of the toy manufacturer or distributor, age grade, cautionary statements/warnings, instructional literature, item/model/stock keeping unit (SKU) number, and manufacturer’s marking, including the complete name.

2)  Refrain from buying toys from retailers that offer toys from unlicensed manufacturers, importers and distributors.  Be sure to get a valid proof of purchase from the seller to facilitate replacement, refund, compensation or warranty claim if needed.

3) Pick toys that are suited for a child’s age, aptitude, habits, and temperament. And follow the age recommendation as indicated on the label.

4) Shun toys with small parts or unsecured components that may be ingested by a child or placed in her or his nose and ears.   Seek toys that are bigger than a child’s mouth to avoid choking (“the smaller the child, the bigger the toy”).

5) Go for unpainted toys.  That is, unless they’re certified as lead-safe — to prevent lead exposure when a child bites, chews, licks or sucks toys decorated with lead-containing paints, which are not allowed under the DENR’s Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.

6) Stay away from toys made of PVC plastic that contains undisclosed chemical additives such as phthalates.  DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP, and DnOP phthalates above the limit of 0.1 percent by weight are not permitted in toys as per DOH Administrative Order 2009-0005-A.

7)  If you are buying art toys and play cosmetics, select products that are guaranteed non-toxic.  The FDA recently banned imported and locally-made art coloring materials due to their high lead content.

8) Reject toys that shoot small or pointed objects into the air that may cause eye or body injuries. Also those with sharp edges that may bruise or cut a child’s sensitive skin.

9) Avoid toys with cords or strings longer than 12 inches. These may wrap around a child’s neck and cut off blood circulation.

10) Decline musical toys, rattles, and squeeze objects that make very loud sounds. Hear ye: These can damage a child’s sensitive hearing.

11) Look for well-made, washable stuffed toys. Avoid those with small parts such as buttons or eyes that may be pulled loose and swallowed by a child; avoid as well those with pellet-like stuffing that may get into a child’s hand and mouth when the toy breaks open.

12) Say no to toys with batteries that are not tightly fastened. Such batteries may cause choking, chemical burns, and internal bleeding if swallowed.

13) Go for toys that do not stimulate aggression and violence such as guns, knives, and other toy weapons.

More, consumers are urged to:

1) Keep toy plastic packaging out of children’s reach to avoid the risk of suffocation.  Refrain from throwing reusable toy bags, boxes, and wrappers into the bin, and find other functional uses for toy packaging to reduce waste.

2) Read and follow the instructions for proper toy assembly and use to prevent breakage, injury, and misuse. Keep the safety instructions for reference.

3) Teach a child how to play safely. Closely supervise small children to help prevent any untoward incidents.

4) Check toys regularly for signs of wear or broken pieces that may cause injury. And keep toys clean.

5)  Teach a child to clean up and put toys away after play to avoid accidents.

After all, our children’s safety is no kid stuff.

* * *

Lighting up for the holidays: Be hazard-free

’Tis the season to light up. But are you in the dark as to where to find safe, high-quality, and power-saving Christmas lights to deck up your home for the holidays? Let Philips Lighting, global leader in lighting, enlighten you with these tips on how to choose Christmas lights, assuring families safer, more comfortable, and flicker-free holidays.

Get to know your Christmas lights. There are a lot of Christmas lights on the market to catch the eye. However, their aesthetically pleasing designs sometimes make us overlook their safety features. If you are planning to buy a new set of Christmas lights, make sure that they are tested for safety.  Ratings and other similar security labels should be clearly marked on the product.  Make sure to also check the lighting’s strands, especially for the old and previously used ones, for frayed wires, cracked sockets, and faulty or damaged bulbs. Test each set and plug them in for a good 15 minutes in a fire-resistant surface to make sure that the lights don’t melt or burn.

Use your lights as directed. Be mindful to use the proper Christmas lighting in the proper location. Some lights can be used for indoors only, some for outdoors solely, and others can be used for both. Make sure to identify your lights properly and know where to use them appropriately. Likewise, never use staples, tacks, or nails in hanging them up. Instead, use safe and insulated holders that are designed for such use.

Choose the right LED. As we all know, LEDs are extremely energy-efficient and long-lasting — which help bring a dramatic decrease in the household’s power costs. They also generate light at significant cooler temperatures, reducing the risk of combustion or burns. LED holiday lights would not only be perfect for the festive atmosphere, but would also help families manage their electricity expenditure this holiday season. But did you know that not all LEDs available on the market are created equal? There are LEDs that flicker, which can be irritating to the eyes and make it difficult for people to concentrate.

Philips Lighting has developed a range of LEDs that produces high-quality light, with no flicker, so the eyes feel comfortable and relaxed. Philips LED provides superior quality lighting, giving brighter yet softer lighting that is optimum to the eyes.  It offers non-visible flickering and up to 70-percent less glare compared to other LEDs on the market.  

Be conscious of your usage. One of the main causes of holiday house fires is improper and unheeded use of Christmas lights. Lights add color and brilliance to the home but they, too, can pose a fire hazard, especially if they are used irresponsibly. Make sure to always turn off all Christmas lights that are not in use, especially when you go to bed or leave your property. Never attach multiple cords together. Limit your plugging to three sets and don’t overcrowd your power points as this could cause the extensions to overheat.

Choose your light locations carefully.  Festooning the home with Christmas lights can be exciting and overwhelming. Sometimes, we eagerly want to achieve that vibrant festive look that we tend to hastily put them up in all areas possible. There is nothing wrong with being grand with Christmas lights, but we should also make sure to be cautious of where we put them. Avoid hanging lights near any object that poses a potential fire hazard such as candles, stoves, lamps, and other similar easily flammable materials. Be mindful to keep them away from any item that may present a safety hazard.

Educate family members. Knowing your Christmas lights and keeping a keen eye on them is one thing in maintaining a hazard-free holidays. But getting the family informed on how to take part in keeping the home safe during the holidays is quite different thing. Educate the household, especially the children, about the importance of electrical safety and the hazards of damaging electrical equipment. Instruct children not to play with Christmas lights, or any electrical decoration for that matter, as these could cause burns and even fires. Involve the whole family and enjoy a safer, merrier, and hazard-free Christmas.

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