ICMR committee to test heavy metals and phthalates in toys.

A committee formed to test toxicity of heavy metals and phthalates in toys will begin their investigation soon. The 11 member committee formed by the Indian Council for Medical Research on the behest of the Ministry of Health was formed in November, 2009 after the Supreme Court ordered the testing of level of heavy metals in toys.

The committee includes members of All India Institute of Medical Sciences, National Institute of Occupational Health (Ahmedabad) and National Institute of Nutrition (Hyderabad). The ICMR has a budget of rupees one crore for the project.

“As of now, the committee has drawn and finalized the procedures for the tests. Special equipments for testing toxicity of toys have been bought from Germany,” said B Dinesh Kumar, assistant director, NIN. 

The tests will be conducted on about 2800 samples of toys collected from four different zones- north, south, east and west.  “Samples of most commonly used toys like dolls, teethers and animal shaped toys will be taken. The collection will begin in the festival season, where toys of different brands as well as the local brands will be taken for testing,” said Kumar. 

He added that the samples will be collected from places like fairs and roadside stores along with bigger stores to ensure that all kinds of toys are taken for samples. Though he declined to comment on reports of Chinese toys containing heavy metals he assured that their samples would also be tested. India had banned Chinese toys in 2009, but had to lift the ban later after China decided to move the International Court of Justice against the ban. 

The toys will be tested to trace the presence of heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic. Those toys with high levels of heavy metal will be tested for phthalates. Heavy metal poisoning leads to toxicity especially among malnourished children. They are known to inhibit enzymes, result in anaemia, retarded growth and irreparable damage to the organs and nervous system. Phthalates on the other hand causes serious health disorders like asthma, skeletal defects, damage to the lungs and reproductive system.