Legal Guide

New Manila Law Protects Children From Hazardous Toys

Regardless of what country parents choose to live in while they raise a family, the urge to ensure the health and safety of one’s children is pretty much universal. And most parents expect, and rightly so, that the toys marketed to children have been expertly designed, well crafted, and thoroughly tested to ensure that they’re not going to pose any kind of hazard to the minors that play with them. There is almost nothing more insidious than a company producing toys for kids that they know full well could pose a choking hazard, the risk of poisoning, or other harmful effects. And manufacturers and retailers that fail to warn parents of such potential threats are even worse. At least, that seems to be the common sense stance that President Benigno Aquino III of the Philippines has taken with the passage of the Toy and Game Safety Labeling Act of 2013, or Republic Act Number 10620.

The act is designed to force toy manufacturers, or in some cases retailers, to label toys that pose potential health risks with information pertaining to any hazardous materials they may contain, all in an effort to raise parental awareness of such issues, provide consumers with the data needed to make wise purchasing decisions, and of course, ensure the safety of the children that will play with these toys. And the law pertains to all “toys and games locally or internationally manufactured that are imported, donated, distributed and sold in the Philippines…” Further, it calls out toys that have “substances or mixture of substances which are considered toxic, corrosive, irritant, a strong sensitizer, flammable or combustible, or generates pressure through decomposition, heat or other means.” This is related to tests conducted by the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), in concert with the Ecowaste Coalition, which documented instances of toys being sold in Manila containing hazardous ingredients like antimony, arsenic, chromium, cadmium, lead, and mercury, all of which are poisonous when ingested.

In most cases, the manufacturers or distributors of these toys will be responsible for adding appropriate labeling, although retailers could also be held liable for selling toys that are not in compliance with the law. For packaged toys, the label will have to be added to the packaging. As for toys that are sold in bulk or are otherwise unpackaged (as with vending machines, for example) the retail display or vending machine must bear the warning label. Further, these labels are required to follow strict standards to ensure maximum visibility, including being written in Filipino and/or English. And they must be written in conspicuous and legible type that contrasts with the packaging in some way (color, font, etc.).

Also included in the law are stipulations concerning the punishment for failing to comply, including fines ranging from approximately $200-$1,200 (P10,000-P50,000), as well as three months to two years of jail time. And that applies to manufacturers, distributors, and retailers – pretty much anyone responsible for selling hazardous toys for kids without proper labeling. As an additional provision, the Department of Health will publish a biannual list of toys that fail to comply, ostensibly to warn both retailers and consumers while also banning the sale or distribution of specific toys found to be out of compliance with the law. Although the law doesn’t cover all items for kids, such as cribs, car seats, or the average baby gate or play yard, it will at least give parents an idea of the potential hazards associated with toys and give them the information needed to choose playthings that are less likely to impact the health and safety of their children.

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