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Toying with Toxics*

An investigation of lead and cadmium in

soft plastic toys in three cities in India

Ravi Agarwal
Toxics Link
*(pl. see website for full report)
Global Toy Market

• Global toy market of the order of US$105.0 billion.

• USA is the world’s biggest importer of toys imports

worth US$35.0 billion

• Germany, 18% of the world market (US$19.0 billion),

Hong Kong 13% (US$14.0 billion), Britain 7% (US$8.0
billion) France 6% (US $ 6.5 billion).

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Indian Toy Market
• Unorganized sector dominates.
• estimated US $1.0 billion organized sector
• US$1.5 billion - unorganized sector.
• More than 1000 units in the small-scale sector
larger number in the cottage sector.
• Large players like like Mattel, Lego, Funskool
also present
• Soft toys account for 35% of total
production of toys. Mumbai and Delhi - 95% of the
toy output
• Imports flood cheap toys market (est but
unconfirmed >70 %)

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Users of low cost soft toys :
Urban Poor - Children
In India
• nearly 130 million children below six years of age
• More than 6 million children in urban slums
• Hence every sixth urban child in the age group 0-
6yrs a slum dweller.
0 - 6yrs
• Greater Mumbai - 0.86 million (13.2 % of city’s total
child population )
• Delhi - 0.3 million (16.2 % of city’s total child
population )
• Chennai - 11.5% (of city’s total child population)

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Soft Plastic Toys

• Cheap
• Unlabelled
• Mostly plastic and PVC
• Vividly painted, pigmented

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Soft Plastic Toys

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Usage practices

• Toys have paint which chips, rubs off


• Children chew, swallow, suck etc.soft


• Parents save toys for next child – aging

of toys

• Old soft toys are burnt – gaseous

releases of pollutants like dioxins and
heavy metals.

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Study Objectives

• To ascertain the total content of lead and

cadmium in soft plastic toys (mostly PVC)
collected from the three metropolitan cities
of Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai

• To understand the usage pattern of such

toys and the potential risks involved.

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• 111 cheap soft plastic toy samples were randomly

purchased from markets in three metropolitan
cities in India.
• 60 from Delhi,
• 30 from Mumbai
• 21 from Chennai.

• These urban markets served the needs of

surrounding sub-urban and rural areas.

• Only non-branded samples were purchased in the

price range of 30cents to 3 USD

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Sampling Locations

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Lab Tests*

• Ascertain type of plastic

• Ascertain total Pb and total Cd content

* Delhi Test House – NABL Accredited (National Accreditation Board for

Testing and Calibration Laboratories, Department of Science and
technology, Government of India)

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Key Findings

•77 of 111 samples were of PVC plastic (%)

• Pb and Cd were found to be present in all tested PVC samples in

varying concentrations.

Overall average concentrations

• Lead: 112.51 ppm
• Cadmium: 15.71ppm

Lead- 0.65 ppm to 2104 ppm
Cadmium - 0.016 ppm to 188 ppm.
Lead exceeds US EPA* and CPSC
• Total lead standards as defined by these agencies
• EPA 600 ppm in painted toys
• CPSC 200 ppm in vinyl blinds

• Of 30 samples analysed for total concentration of Pb and Cd in

toys brought from Mumbai, eight samples showed concentration
> 200 ppm.

• Five samples (approx 20 percent) showed very high lead

concentration - from 878.6 ppm to 2104 ppm

* USEPA: - 16CFR 1303

** Consumer Product Safety Commission - USA

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• Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has adopted European Union

standards on bio-availability of lead and other heavy metals which is only
voluntary in nature.

• No toy manufacturer in India has taken license from BIS. Compliance

evidently only for export.

• Possibly similar situations exist in South Asian region.

• Internationally limits only for separate heavy metals and vary.

• Total exposure to children not accounted for, along with other chemicals

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• No study in India on heavy metals or toxics in soft

plastic toys - overall only very few.

• Consumer awareness is probably very low.

• Cheap imports flood market

• Organised sector needs to be studied as well

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• The present study clearly demonstrates that PVC toys in India do
contain lead and cadmium. Some even have very high concentrations.

• Concerns about high leachability of heavy metals and other chemicals

from PVC– safer materials needed for toys.

• No limit is safe limit, toys must be free of any toxic contents. No

amount of lead or cadmium be allowed in toys.

• Issues of total combined chemical and HM exposures to children from

toys needs addressal

• The entire issue of standards needs to be re-visited. Standards need to

be made compulsory in order to make toy manufacturers strictly adhere
to it.

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