updated 24 Dec 2010, 16:39
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46% of toys tested toxic, says Case
by Victoria Barker

PARENTS, be warned: That toy Junior loves to play with may not be as safe as you think.

A first-of-its-kind survey by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) revealed that 46 per cent or 23 out of 50 children’s toys tested contained higher-than-permitted levels of toxic materials, such as lead and phthalates.

Phthalates are substances added to plastic to make it more flexible. Consuming the  substance can lead to diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. It can also cause infertility and  even death if enough is consumed over a prolonged period of time.

Of the 23 which failed the tests, 16 exceeded the limit for phthalates while three exceeded the limit for lead and four registered over the limit for both substances.

Speaking to  reporters at a media conference yesterday, Case president Yeo Guat Kwang said: “I’m  very disappointed... we’ve been depending on traders and distributors to guard the gate (of toy safety)... it is quite alarming.”

The toys, which were purchased from a variety of  shops islandwide, ranged from PVC balls to handphone straps and toy cars.

They underwent chemical and toxicological tests using standards set in countries such as the  United States as Singapore does not currently have its own. Tests were carried out byInsight Laboratories, an American product-testing company with a test facility here.

All the toys that failed the tests were made in China.

Though some products were only marginally over the limit in terms of the amount of  phthalates found, some were an alarming 500 per cent over permitted levels.

Mr Yeo revealed that the survey was spurred by a February incident in which 17 primary- school pupils from Ai Tong School complained of diarrhoea and vomiting after playing with  China-made toy.

He added that consumer safety is a “key concern”.

Another alarming finding was the fact that most of the tainted toys were not properly labelled with information such as their place of origin and manufacturer details.

“That implies that even  he importers or the retailers are unable to check on the items and whether they  meet safety standards,” Mr Yeo explained.

Of the 14 local shops from which Case  obtained the tainted toy samples, only four have pulled the affected products from their  shelves.

They are Toys “R” Us, FairPrice Xtra, Giant Hypermarket and Khoo Photo in  Bedok. As toy safety regulations do not exist here, the remaining 10 are not required by  law to follow suit.

However, Mr Yeo hopes the survey findings will prompt the authorities to implement measures to tackle the problem. He said: “We should have a law (that  allows enforcement).”

Case advises those who have come into contact with the toys – photographs of which can be found on its website – to seek medical help immediately if  they experience symptoms like stomach aches and nausea.

Consumers should also keep  the affected toys out of the reach of children and approach the retailer from which they  bought the products for further assistance.

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>> Click here for the list of toys that failed the toxicology survey


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