EDITORIAL: Dangerous toys

Nepal should learn from Sweden which has a law that does not permit chemicals in children’s toys which pose a risk to the health of humans

Most parents are not aware that the toys they buy for their children could contain materials and chemicals that are used to make the toys are harmful for children. As the more colourful toys in the market entice children they pester their parents to buy them. What most of us are not aware about is that these toys, in particular, contain many life-threatening chemicals like lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and bromine. These chemicals could cause many health problems to the children. The chemicals and metals used to make toys could have adverse impact on the health of children. Among the maladies that they could cause are damage to brain development, learning and development problems which can lower their IQ score, attention deficit, change in vision, deafness, kidney problems and even the dreaded cancer. Lead for example could cause death and brain damage if they are present at high levels.

Taking into consideration the high toxic content that children’s toys sold in the market have, the Ministry of Science and Technology and Environment is set to decide on the limits of the heavy metals like lead and mercury in them. If the standards set do not meet the criteria set by the government, the toys, most of which are imported, their storage, sales, production and use would be strictly prohibited. Studies were made on 100 toy samples from Kathmandu, Nepalgunj, Bhairahawa, Birgunj, Biratnagar and Banepa from shops, street vendors and also supermarkets. The samples showed that 26 per cent of the samples had lead contamination, 99 per cent chromium and all the samples contained zinc, also considered to be harmful above the limits set.  About 90 per cent of the toys are imported from China for young children from 0 to 11 years. Moreover, the volume of imports of toys in Nepal is increasing showing the threat that these toys pose.

Meanwhile, studies conducted in Sweden show even sex toys are not safe although they are less harmful than toys for children. They were found to contain less dangerous chemicals than children’s toys. Studies conducted there in 2016 showed that two per cent of the 44 sex toys that it imported were contaminated by banned chemicals. These studies are said to be the first conducted. Only one plastic dildo contained a banned substance chlorinated paraffin that could cause cancer. The question is, why children’s toys are more dangerous. It could be because the sex toys were imported by larger companies and manufacturers of these are compelled to avoid the harmful chemicals. On the other hand, children’s toys are mostly imported by smaller companies which do not set the rigid standard that they are supposed to. Nepal should learn from Sweden which has a law that does not permit chemicals in children’s toys which pose a risk to the health of humans. There is a global market of about $ 20 billion a year for sex toys, and it is expected to grow by seven per cent every year between 2016 and 2020. As such, manufacturers of toys should see to it that they are free from dangerous chemicals after setting rigid criteria.

Seed laboratory

The Agriculture and Forest University in Rampur, Chitwan has recently set up a seed processing centre and seed examination laboratory in its premises. The centre, supported by Bill and Melinda Foundation, was established at a cost of Rs. 10 million to make seed management sustainable, effective and qualitative. It is hoped that the centre will provide service to farmers by providing and recommending quality seeds which will help boost the agriculture, horticulture and floriculture sectors.

The centre will initially process maize, wheat and paddy seeds which are main cereal crops of the country. The university has already provided training and skills for 100 selected farmers on seed processing. The processed seeds will be distributed to farmers along with adequate information about their suitability, in particular, climate, altitude and regions. This is a welcome step that the university has taken such an innovation to increase productivity in the agriculture sector which is lagging behind for want of technological support, fertilizers and quality seeds. The university should also encourage the farmers from different regions to visit its laboratory and share its knowledge.