(Toxic flame retardant chemicals may be lurking in some Halloween toys)
28 October 2022, Quezon City. As part of its advocacy toward a plastic-free and waste-free celebration of Halloween, the EcoWaste Coalition today raised a strong concern about the use of recycled plastic materials in some children’s toys that may contain brominated flame retardant (BFR) chemicals.
The group put a spotlight on toxic plastic recycling after finding high levels of bromine in some Halloween toys, which the group procured from toy retailers and wholesalers in Binondo, Manila.
Bromine, an element with the symbol Br and atomic number 35, is used in brominated flame retardants (BFRs) added to a range of products to reduce their flammability. The plastic housings of some electrical and electronic goods such as computers, mobile phones, and televisions may contain toxic BFRs.
Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, the group detected bromine up to 6,680 parts per million (ppm) in eight Halloween toys, indicating recycled e-waste plastic may have been used in making them.
“The presence of bromine in the Halloween toys we bought and analyzed indicates that these toys may have been manufactured using plastic from e-waste. While recycling helps in conserving energy and resources, recycling plastic waste containing hazardous chemicals like BFRs is not recommended as it only leads to the further contamination of the environment,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition. “Also, consumers are kept in the dark about this toxic threat from BFRs in toys due to lack of chemical transparency and inadequate regulations.”
According to various reports on hazardous chemicals in plastic products published by Arnika and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), some BFRs are known to migrate from products they are used in and are released to the household dust and outdoor environment. BFRs are known to cause adverse problems to the developmental, endocrine, immune, nervous or reproductive systems.
As BFRs tend to resist degradation, travel long distances and bio-accumulate in humans, causing long-term chronic health problems, specific BFRs have been listed in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), including
Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs), Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD), and Hexabromobiphenyl (HBB).
Lucero recalled that four Rubik’s Cube-like toys with high bromine content that the EcoWaste Coalition shipped to the Czech Republic in 2016 for BFR analysis as part of an IPEN global study were found to contain significant levels OctaBDE and/or DecaBDE. The former was listed for elimination under the Stockholm Convention in 2004, and the latter was added in 2017.
Last year, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published a study indicating 25% of children’s toys contain harmful chemical additives, including flame retardants, colorants, fragrances, plasticizers or softeners, stabilizers, and surface-active substances.