28 March 2004, Times of India
Five-year-old Rohit had been playing with a harmless teddy bear. However, what no one noticed was that the plastic eyes of the toy were loosely fitted. One came out while Rohit was playing with it and he put it in his mouth and almost choked on it.
Toys may be a child’s best friend but they are fast turning out to be the biggest danger as well. Choking on toys is a leading cause of death among children. Pediatrician Soma Sen alone attends to atleast two to three choking cases a week.
Apart from a few well-known companies, majority of the toys come without a quality check or age demarcations. Children are often given toys, which might harm them for life through a lack of awareness on the part of the parents as well as the manufacturers.
It seems shocking but the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) regulations for ensuring toy safety are not mandatory for manufacturers unless they are exporting.
“Toys are essential for a child’s wholesome development. Thus, it is very important to ensure they are safe,” said Sen.
“Toys mainly result in choking incidents in children, while colouring agents often lead to stomach and skin diseases,” confirmed pediatrician Amit Deb.
Even toy manufacturers are not disagreeing to the hazards associated with toys. Director of Sahayata, a soft toy manufacturer says “Our consciousness regarding the hazards a toy can cause is not enough.”
Rupa Mehta, director of Sasha Exports said they adhere to the BIS guidelines both for their domestic as well as export products. “There should be cells not only at the Centre but also regional and local levels, which can ensure the minimal safety measures keeping in mind the local circumstances, capacity and availability,” she said.
-While purchasing toys, one should ensure that all parts of the toys are larger than the child’s mouth, so that no part of it is accidentally swallowed.
-The Child Safety Protection Act in the US increased the size of banned small balls permitted in toys because of the choking hazards associated with round objects.
-In the EU, the European Commission for Standardisation is responsible for safety standards in toys, while in the US, the Consumer Product Safety Commission regulates the safety of toys.
However, despite the urgency of the situation, the government has not taken any concrete steps, feels the Consumer unity Trust and Society (CUTS). “Both the government and the BIS have the power to make a standard mandatory, if the issue is related to health and safety. In the case of toys, the issue is more sensitive, because it is associated with children,” said Soumi Home Roy from CUTS (Kolkata). CUTS have launched a nationwide campaign to move the BIS for the formation of a central toy cell, “which could test toys and order recall.”
BIS sources also admit having a nodal agency for monitoring the quality of toys is of paramount importance.