Local activists want action against toxic chemicals in toys

25Jul 2017
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Local activists want action against toxic chemicals in toys

LOCAL health and environmental conservations activists are putting pressure on regulators to impose stringent guidelines on locally manufactured and imported children’s toys as studies show that they are harmful.


AGENDA Tanzania officials, SilvaniMng’anya and Dorah Swai told Smart Moneyrecently that lead is a poisonous substancewhich not only endangers people’s health butalso the environment.

“We need to take measures to stop localmanufacturers who use lead as an ingredientin toy making but also impose restrictionson imports,” said Mng’anya who is AGENDATanzania senior officer.

He said it is taking a lot of time by localregulators to come up with standards toregulate the toys which are currently beingsold cheaply in the local market.

“Most parents don’t know about the dangersof buying their kids toys with lead which istoxic,” said Swai who is also AGENDA Tanzaniatop campaign official against lead and mercuryproducts.

Meanwhile a new global survey by IPENand Arnika has found out that recyclingplastics containing toxic flame retardantchemicals found in electronic waste results incontamination of the world’s best-selling toyalong with other children’s products.

Ironically, the chemical contaminantscan damage the nervous system and reduceintellectual capacity but are found in Rubik’sCubes – a puzzle toy designed to exercise themind.

The IPEN (a global civil society network)and Arnika (an environmental organizationin the Czech Republic) study establishedthat toxic chemicals, OctaBDE, DecaBDE andHBCD are used in the plastic casings of electronicproducts and if they are not removed,they are carried into new products when theplastic is recycled.

The survey of products from 26 countriesfound that 90 percent of the samples containedOctaBDE or DecaBDE. Nearly half ofthem 43 percent contained HBCD. Thesechemicals are persistent and known to harmthe reproductive system and disrupt hormonesystems, adversely impacting intelligence, attention,learning and memory.

“Toxic chemicals in electronic waste shouldnot be present in children’s toys,” said Les-KIGALIThe Chairman of Heirs Holdingsand Founder of the Tony ElumeluFoundation, Tony O Elumelu, has calledon African leaders and developmentinstitutions to help address thedeepening job and employment crisisbedevilling the continent by lendingsupport and paying more attentiontowards the agricultural sector, creatingaccess to electricity and developingentrepreneurship.

Elumelu who said this whilespeaking on the theme ‘How do wecreate 10 million jobs by 2020?’ atthe Youth Connekt Africa Summit inRwanda yesterday, opined that accessto electricity and increased focus inthe agricultural sector would enhanceentrepreneurship and tackle thechallenge of unemployment throughthe creation of more jobs in thecontinent.

Elumelu, a passionate advocate ofentrepreneurship and Africapitalism,also upheld the notion that the privatesector has the responsibility to play thelead role in contributing to job creationin Africa, and cited the example of theTony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) andits various investments in these key areas,adding that this is visible from the$100million commitment towards supportingAfrican entrepreneurs over theyears.

He said, “Today we have businessesin 20 African countries and employ30,000 people directly and 50,000people indirectly. Agriculture, access toelectricity and entrepreneurship havethe potential to create more jobs in Africa.”

The TEF boss stated that Africa canbe self-reliant and self-dependent if theright infrastructure and governmentsupport are put in place to boost thesesectors. In this regard, he commendedthe effort of President Paul Kagame forhis brilliant initiatives in the areas ofentrepreneurship and attracting key investmentsto the African continent.

The President of the African DevelopmentBank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina,who supported Elumelu’s stance, acknowledgedthat agriculture can createjobs for the teeming African populationif youths approached the sector, notjust as a way of life, but as a business.

He seized the opportunity to commendElumelu for his work in entrepreneurshipand pledged to support thework of the TEF in the creation of jobs.“I applaud Tony Elumelu’s work in entrepreneurship,because entrepreneurshipis key. We will help to scale up whatTony Elumelu is doing. If others are doingsame, we will succeed in Africa.”

The Rwandan Development Boardalso hosted Elumelu at a roundtablebreakfast meeting with the Founderand Executive Chairman of AlibabaGroup, Jack Ma to discuss investmentopportunities in Afrcia.

The Youth Connekt Summit hostedby the President of Rwanda, PaulKagame, gathered 2,500 invited guestsfrom the private and public sectors.

Local activists want action againsttoxic chemicals in toys as newreport warns against kids healthElumelu: agriculture, electricity, entrepreneurship will create jobs in Africalie Adogame, SRAdev Nigeria. “Thisproblem needs to be addressed globallyand nationally,” Adogame argued.

The study emerges just a few daysbefore the global Conference of theParties to the Stockholm Conventionwill decide whether to continue allowingthe recycling of materials containingOctaBDE and possibly makea new recycling exemption for DecaBDE.The treaty’s expert committeehas warned against the practice.

“Recycling materials that containtoxic chemicals contaminates newproducts, continues exposureand undermines the credibility ofrecycling,” said Pam Miller, IPEN Cochair.“Governments should end thisharmful loophole,” Miller argued.In another critical decision of theStockholm Convention Conferencewill be to establish hazardouswaste limits. Protective hazardouswaste limits would make wastessubject to the treaty’s obligations fordestruction – and not permit theirrecycling. Surprisingly, some of thetoxic chemical levels in children’sproducts in this study exceededproposed hazardous waste limits.

“We need protective hazardouswaste limits,” said Jitka Strakova,Arnika. “Weak standards mean toxicproducts and dirty recycling, whichoften takes place in low and middleincome countries and spreadspoisons from recycling sites into ourhomes and bodies. “

The application of strict hazardouslimits is also critical for brominatedflame retardants due to their presencein e-waste. In many countries, theStockholm Convention standards willbe the only global regulatory tool thatcan be used to prevent import andexport of these contaminated wastes,in many cases from countries withstricter legislation to countries withweaker legislation or control.

Tanzania Bureau of Standards hassince 2014 been preparing regulationsto restrict lead and other chemicalsused in making toys and decorativepaints. But activists feel that TBS hasbeen slow in coming up with themeasures to curb the ingredient’s uselocally.

Under East African Community(EAC) there are agreed standards onvarious types of paint to not exceed90 parts per million.

The EAC standards, adoptedin 2014 are supposed to beimplemented nationally by the fiveEAC countries including Tanzaniaat latest by November 2016. Becauseof its hazardous properties, the limitof lead in paint was due to legallybinding next year.