Panel inspecting toys' toxicity to submit report

Set up 6 years ago, it was to give a report in 18 months

Panel inspecting toys' toxicity to submit report

An expert panel, set up more than six years ago to determine if colourful plastic toys have toxic chemicals,  is yet to submit its report and recommendations to the Health Ministry.

Without the report, the government is in no position to determine how hazardous Chinese toys are and if their heavy-metal content harms children.

Headed by All India Institute of Medical Sciences' biochemistry professor Y K Gupta, the panel, set up in January 2009, was to submit its report within 18 months.

Six and a half years down the line, the report is still not on the table. The Health Ministry extended the panel's time to December 2016, much to the chagrin of many Parliamentarians, who think the ministry has taken the issue “very lightly” despite it concerning children's “health and future”.

The ministry's explanation for the delay was that the study’s scope has been expanded to include more types of toys.

A top ministry official said three parallel studies were conducted and data analysed twice a year, which took time.

Use of leaded pigments in paints to decorate walls and children's toys is permitted. Paints that contain lead additives pose higher risk of lead-poisoning, especially in children and pregnant women, said Satish Sinha, associate director of Toxics Link, a non-governmental organisation that prepared a report in 2006 highlighting the health risks of colourful plastic toys.

The NGO picked 111 samples from Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, and tested the toys in a government-accredited laboratory.

They found the presence of lead and cadmium — both toxic metals — in varying concentration in almost all samples. In many toys, the concentration was way above the World Health Organisation-prescribed safe limits.

The concerns were more for plastic toys as leaches out toxic metals easily.

Also, plastic toys contain another class of compounds, named phthalates, which is also harmful.

As the NGO report raised questions on revisiting the standards for toys, the Indian Council of Medical Research formed the Gupta panel.

A Lok Sabha panel has now deplored the Health Ministry's “laxity and lackadaisical approach”.

“The issue is very serious, but has been taken very lightly due to inactiveness of all concerned. The committee is not convinced with the explanation of the ministry,” said the panel, headed by BJP leader Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, former chief minister of Uttarakhand.

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