27 April 2024, Quezon City.  Following the safety tips issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on activity toys for indoor and outdoor use, the EcoWaste Coalition reminded the public to also select toys that are not coated with lead-containing paints.

The group’s reminder is in line with the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Memorandum Circular No. 10, series of 2016, which affirmed the strict prohibition on the use of paints with lead above the maximum limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) on toys and related products effective December 31, 2016.

The prohibition applies to toys and children’s products that may be found in homes, schools, daycare centers, public buildings, hospitals, parks, playgrounds, and other places frequented by children.

For example, indoor and outdoor playground equipment such as playhouses, playpens, seesaws, slides, and swings must not be coated with lead-containing paints, which sooner or later will chip and deteriorate, contaminating the dust and soil in and around homes, schools and playgrounds.  Lead-containing dust and soil are the major pathways by which lead in paint contributes to early childhood exposure to lead.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “lead is especially dangerous to children’s developing brains, and can cause reduced intelligence quotient (IQ) and attention span, impaired learning ability, and increased risk of behavioral problems,” warning “there is no known level of lead exposure without harmful effects.”

Last April 24, the FDA through Advisory No. 2024-0670 advised the public “to practice caution when playing with activity toys in order to avoid any unintended injury,” stressing “activity toys are intended to be used under adult supervision at all times.”

The FDA further reminded parents and guardians of children to:

–Use play equipment properly. Select the appropriate play equipment for your child’s age and skills.

— Read the label and check the intended use, age grading, instructions for use, assembly, installation and maintenance, and other warnings or cautionary statements.

— Look out for entanglement hazards such as open hooks, protrusions, projections and exposed bolts that can entrap a child’s clothing.

— Dress children appropriately for play. Avoid the use of long or loose clothing and accessories like necklaces, scarves, purses, hoods, and drawstrings.

— Beware of openings and gaps that are large enough for a child’s feet to pass through, but not their heads.

— Ensure that the child is in a designated play area with a protective surface and enough room for movement.

The FDA likewise reminded consumers to check on the product labeling of activity toys, which should be in accordance with the requirements of Republic Act No. 10620, or the Toy and Game Safety Labeling Act.

To recall, the EcoWaste Coalition and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN),  prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, released the report  “Lead in Playground Equipment in the Philippines,” which found 50 leaded play equipment in 12 out of 14 public playgrounds located in 10 cities and one municipality in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.  Multi-layered lead-painted surfaces were found to be most hazardous with lead levels reaching up to 662,863 ppm.

The said study led to the repair, repainting or replacement of damaged play devices, and the installation of new lead-safe playsets, for example, in Baguio City under the administration of Mayor Benjamin Magalong.

A lead-safe outdoor playset at Burnham Park in Baguio City.

For the protection of children who are most vulnerable to toxic exposure, the EcoWaste Coalition promotes industry compliance with toy safety laws and standards, as well as strengthened government compliance monitoring and enforcement.