Third of toys tested too toxic for children

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 December, 2011, 12:00am


Nearly a third of the toys on store shelves contain heavy metals and about 10 per cent have lead levels that exceed national safety standards, Greenpeace said in a report released in Hong Kong yesterday.

Greenpeace campaigner Ada Kong Cheuk-san said she and her colleagues had bought toys in Hong Kong and four big mainland cities - Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Wuhan. In a month they gathered 500 samples and screened them with a handheld X-ray scanner that could detect six kinds of heavy metals - antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury - that were known to have lasting and devastating health effects even when present in small quantities.

The highest reading, from a green toy ring, recorded a lead level of 120,960 parts per million - more than 200 times the safety standard on the mainland and more than 1,300 times the standard in the United States.

'These contaminated toys not only poison children when chewed or touched but enter their body through the air they breathe,' Kong said.

Greenpeace said the fact nearly 70 per cent of the samples, mostly made on the mainland by Chinese manufacturers, did not contain heavy metals showed the industry was capable of making safe toys.

The owner of Rongjun Toys Industrial in Shantou, Guangdong, which made a toy car that contained more than 700 parts per million of lead, said she was surprised by the Greenpeace report.

'We have received a quality certificate from a government-authorised agency for our production line and manufacturing technology. Our products should be heavy-metal free,' she said. The company said it would check with its engineers.

A national inspection conducted by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine early this year, which examined more than 240 samples on the mainland, found only one product with excessive levels of heavy metal.

Sun Xiaogang, sales manager for the China Certification & Inspection Group, said the discrepancy could be the result of different testing methods. While Greenpeace detected the total amount of heavy metals on the surface of a product, the government used a more sophisticated method, dipping the sample in solutions chemically similar to human sweat and stomach fluid to find out how much heavy metal would leak out from the sample after a certain period, Sun said.

'Big toy makers tend to be more careful about heavy metals because they earn lots of money from exports,' Sun said. 'Small factories, under the pressure of tough competition, pursue low production costs and allow more flexibility in their choice of raw materials and quality control.'