Environmentalists calls for a total ban of plastic balloon blowing kits in PH

By Nelson Flores, Ll.B., MSCK

Plastic balloon blowing kits. Image © EcoWaste Coalition

THE Philippine Food and Drug Administration’s warning against plastic balloon blowing kits is not enough, a total ban should be implemented to protect children from its adverse health effects.

EcoWaste Coalition Chemical Safety Campaigner Thony Dizon said “the FDA’s public health warning on plastic balloon blowing kits is very important but not enough to protect young children from toxic chemical exposure and other preventable hazards.”
Dizon pointed out that two chemicals – benzene and lead – cited in the said FDA advisory are among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” as per the World Health Organization.

“Products intended for children’s use such as toys should be totally safe. Flammable chemicals such as acetone and benzene, and hazardous substances that can cause cancer like benzene or damage the brain like lead should not be part of any child’s toy and should be banned and withdrawn from the market,” he emphasized.

The FDA’s Advisory No. 2018-152 warns the public about the dangers of using unnotified or unregistered plastic balloon blowing kits, including the risks of inhaling benzene or acetone vapor, lead poisoning, skin laceration and choking.

Meanwhile, test buys conducted on May 10 in Manila and Quezon Cities by the EcoWaste Coalition, an environment and public health watchdog, indicate plastic balloon blowing kits – comprised of solvent mixture in metal tube with accompanying straw – are sold for as low as P1 to P5 per set at public markets and sari-sari stores outside public schools.

All the 25 purchased items are not registered with the FDA, provide no list of chemical ingredients, and lack the mandatory labeling requirements as per Republic Act 10620, or the Toy and Game Safety Labeling Act of 2013, Dizon noted.

In recommending the prohibition on benzene-containing plastic balloon blowing kits, the EcoWaste Coalition cited the ban in Canada that has been in effect since 1973 because “the safety concern is that blowing the balloons exposes a child to inhaling the vapors of any solvents present.”

According to Health Canada, “children can be fascinated with these products, and if they blow balloons for extended periods they may experience early symptoms of central nervous system depression or dysfunction, including euphoria, hallucinations, dizziness, and difficulties with coordination of voluntary movements. Prolonged exposure can lead to more serious symptoms including muscular twitching, unconsciousness, and coma.”

The WHO warned “human exposure to benzene has been associated with a range of acute and long-term adverse health effects and diseases, including cancer and aplastic anemia.”

While, “children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relative low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage,” the WHO said.

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