Recycling contaminates children’s plastic toys with toxic chemicals from electronic waste

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New Delhi, 18.04.17: A new global survey has found presence of highly toxic flame retardants in children’s toys and related products made from recycled plastics generated from E waste. According to the study, chemical contaminants that can damage the nervous system and reduce intellectual capacity were found in Rubik’s Cubes – a puzzle toy usually made of recycled plastic, designed to exercise the mind.

The global study was carried out by IPEN (a global civil society network), Arnika (an environmental organisation in the Czech Republic) including civil society organisations across the globe. Toxics Link, an environmental organisation from India was one of the participants in this study.

The toxic chemicals, OctaBDE, DecaBDE, and HBCD, are used in the plastic casings of electronic products and if they are not removed, they are carried into new products when the plastic is recycled. 1 The global survey of products from 26 countries, including India, found that 90% of the samples contained OctaBDE or DecaBDE. Nearly half of them (43%) contained HBCD.

In the study, six samples from India were analysed and found that four samples contained OctaBDE and DecaBDE at elevated concentrations. One of the samples contained HBCD at a high concentration which raises concerns. These chemicals are persistent in the environment and known to harm the reproductive system and disrupt hormone systems, adversely impacting intelligence, attention, learning and memory.

“These toxic chemicals should not be present in children’s toys. The problem needs to be addressed immediately,” said Satish Sinha, Associate Director of Toxics Link. The study emerges just a few days before the global Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention. It will decide whether to continue allowing the recycling of materials containing OctaBDE, and possibly make a new recycling exemption for DecaBDE. The treaty’s expert committee has warned against the practice.

“Recycling materials that contain toxic chemicals contaminates new products, continues exposure, and undermines the credibility of recycling, “said Joe DiGangi, Senior Science and Technical Advisor, IPEN.

“Governments should end this harmful loophole,” he added. Another critical decision of the Stockholm Convention Conference will be to establish hazardous waste limits. Protective hazardous waste limits would make wastes subject to the treaty’s obligations for destruction – and not permit their recycling. Surprisingly, some of the toxic chemical levels in children’s
products in this study exceeded proposed hazardous waste limits. “Two of the tested cubes purchased in India exceeded the proposed waste limit of 50 ppm for PBDEs/OctaBDE. The cubes contained 298ppm and 336 ppm OctaBDE,” said Dr Prashant Rajankar, Programme Coordinator, Toxics Link.

“We need protective hazardous waste limits. Weak standards mean toxic products and unhealthy recycling, which takes place largely in developing countries including India, and spreads poison from recycling sites into our homes and bodies,“ said Piyush Mohapatra, Sr Coordinator, Toxics Link.

The application of strict hazardous limits is also critical for brominated flame retardants due to their presence in e-waste. In many countries, the Stockholm Convention standards will be the only global.

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1 OctaBDE = Octabromodiphenyl ether (globally banned by the Stockholm Convention); DecaBDE =

Decabromodiphenyl ether (proposed for global ban under the Stockholm Convention); and HBCD =

hexabromocyclododecane (globally banned by the Stockholm Convention)

regulatory tool that can be used to prevent import and export of these contaminated wastes, in many

cases from countries with stricter legislation to countries with weaker legislation or control.

Source: Dr Prashant Rajankar, Toxic Links

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