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Group warns against chemicals in kids' plastic products

TAIPEI--The majority of children's plastic products sold in Taipei contain potentially harmful chemicals, the environmental group Greenpeace Taiwan said Wednesday.

In a sampling of 12 items sold in the city, including raincoats, inflatable balls and pools, plastic balls and stroller covers, nine were found to contain chemicals or banned plasticizers that could cause hormonal problems, the group said.

Six of the samples tested positive for two or more plasticizers, such as DEHP, DNOP, BBP and DBP, the group said. One raincoat made in Taiwan was found to contain a chemical at a level 196 times above the accepted norm, it added.

“When children sweat in these raincoats, the toxic chemicals are absorbed by the skin,” said Greenpeace official Lee Chih-an. “These chemicals can cause not only disruption of the endocrine system in children but also other severe health problems over the long term.”

Six of the items tested, including the rain covers and inflatable balls, were found to contain nonylphenol, a chemical that mimics estrogen and disrupts the natural balance of hormones in the body, the group said. Nonylphenol is banned in the European Union.

Lee called on the government to institute better regulations on the use of chemicals in children's products.

The regulations in the country's Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act on the use of plasticizers apply only to products made in Taiwan and do not extend to imported items, he noted.

Lee also urged the government to expand its list of regulated chemical substances, saying that “99.5 percent of the chemicals used in Taiwan are not subject to government oversight.”

Only 298 of the 60,000-plus chemicals used in Taiwan — less than 0.5 percent — are listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as toxic, according to a statement on Greenpeace Taiwan's website.

It has been confirmed that plasticizers in the bodies of children can lead to early sexual maturity and can be especially harmful to the sexual organs of boys, the website says.

Meanwhile, Chang Wen-pin, an official at the product inspection department of the economics ministry, agreed that the Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act should be amended to expand the list of regulated chemicals.

In Taiwan, the number of chemical substances on the list is about 200 compared with 10,000 in the European Union (EU), he said.

Lee urged the government to follow the example of the EU and the United States and designate a single agency, instead of the current six, to deal with issues pertaining to the use of chemicals.

The six regulating agencies in Taiwan are the EPA, the Department of Health, the Council of Agriculture, and the economics, interior and finance ministries.

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