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Toy Labeling Now a Law in Manila

You’ve no doubt heard horror stories about kids becoming ill or even dying from exposure to harmful chemicals that are found in their toys. Remember back in 2007 when Mattel had to conduct a massive recall when it was discovered that toys manufactured for them in China contained lead paint? Luckily no children were harmed in this instance; a retailer discovered the lead and most of the nearly 1 million products recalled never made it to store shelves. But situations like this serve to remind the consumer public that we often know very little about the goods we purchase and bring into our homes. And in some cases, there aren’t even laws in place to protect kids from harmful toys. However, it seems that at least one country is taking strides to keep kids safe from potentially toxic or hazardous toys. Thanks to the work of Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, children in his island nation are soon to be a lot safer.

The President recently passed a law known as Republic Act No. 10620, or the Toy and Game Safety Labeling Act of 2013. Although the main goal of this law is clearly to protect children from toys that pose potential risks to their health and safety, the specifics are aimed at forcing manufacturers to comply with labeling policies that will warn consumers (namely parents) about any harmful chemicals or other substances or circumstances associated with the toys they produce. The law pertains to any “toys and games locally or internationally manufactured that are imported, donated, distributed and sold in the Philippines” and it requires labeling for “substances or mixture of substances which are considered toxic, corrosive, irritant, a strong sensitizer, flammable or combustible,” as well as any product that “generates pressure through decomposition, heat or other means.”

As you can see, the law is fairly specific about which hazards will require additional labeling, and it also details the penalties for violations. Not only can manufacturers be slapped with fines of P10,000-P50,000 (approximately $200-$1,200 US), as well as jail time ranging from three months to two years, but distributors and even retailers may suffer the same fate if they’re caught selling or distributing toys without appropriate labeling. As for labeling requirements, they must be “…in English or Filipino or both written in common language, in conspicuous and legible type in contrast by typography, layout, or color with other printed matter on such package, descriptive materials, bin, container and vending machine.”

The passage of this law stems from testing of toys sold in Manila. The research, conducted jointly by the Ecowaste Coalition and IPEN (International POPs Elimination Network), uncovered several toys that contained one or more toxic chemicals, such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury, which are, of course, poisonous when ingested. And the Department of Health, in an effort to bolster the law and keep consumers informed, will release a report every six months listing toys that violate the labeling standards. Unfortunately, this won’t pertain to all children’s goods, so the average play yard or crib will not be covered. But parents in the Philippines will soon feel a little safer about the toys they give their children thanks to labels that will warn them when products pose potential safety hazards.

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