High Levels of Dioxins Found in Children’s Toys and Other Products Made of Recycled Plastics Found in Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, the EU, India, Japan and Nigeria

2.5.2019 - GÖTEBORG
PHOTO: Markéta Šedivá / Arnika

Alarming levels of some of the most toxic chemicals, including brominated dioxins and brominated flame retardants, were recycled plastics sold in Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, the EU, India, Japan and Nigeria. Dioxins were measured in children's toys and hair accessories at levels similar to those found in hazardous wastes, including the ash from waste incinerators. The results are being released with global decision-makers to meet this week at the Basel, Rotterdam, and the Stockholm Convention to consider global policies for POPs and waste.

Brominated dioxins are highly hazardous chemicals that are known to affect brain development, damage the immune system and unborn children, and increase the risk of cancer and risk disruption of the thyroid function. They are unintentionally produced during the production of brominated flame retardants. When plastics with brominated flame retardants are recycled and heated to new plastic products, additional brominated and chlorinated dioxins are formed. 

Dioxin and PBDE levels were found in all of the items sampled, and half of the products exceeded the proposed chlorinated dioxin hazardous waste limit. [1]   More than half of the analyzed products made of recycled plastic measured levels of PBDEs that meet current regulatory proposals of 1,000 ppm PBDEs, and these products are within the weak regulation for PBDE contained 730-3,800 pg of WHO-TEQ/g of brominated dioxins. Dioxins are extremely toxic in very small amounts. Levels of concern for dioxin substances are identified in the tenths of pictograms. Very high levels of dioxins measures with weak regulation of PBDEs can pose potential harms, not only from PBDEs, but also from PBDD/Fs.

Read the report: Toxic Soup Flooding Through Consumer Products


Environmental health advocates point to two relevant policies that can keep these deathly toxic chemicals out of new products. Brazil, Canada, Cambodia, and Japan, along with the EU, have all received recycling exemptions from the global PBDE ban.

Stronger controls for POPs waste can be achieved through stricter limits set for hazardous waste known as Low POP Content Level (LPCL). How these numbers are set determines whether waste that contains banned chemicals is sequestered and destroyed, is allowed to be put into landfill or incinerators, or is recycled or shipped to poorer countries. However, if controls are weak, if LPCLs are high and allow greater amounts of waste materials containing POPs, the result is that POP chemicals are not only contaminating products made from toxic recycled feedstock, but dioxin contamination is also increasing.

"Chlorinated dioxins are infamous for causing public health impacts that continue today, as the dioxin contamination from the use of Agent Orange," commented IPEN Science and Technical Advisor, Joe DiGangi . "Brominated dioxins are as toxic to their chlorinated cousins ​​and should not be present in any consumer product, especially in children's products."

“Substances that are identified as POPs are toxic forever. POP materials should be identified and destroyed, not allowed to circulate back into the economy to further damage, ” says J indřich Petrlík from Arnika, and co-chair of IPEN's Dioxin Working Group. “If they put hazardous waste into a child's toy, they would be charged with child endangerment, or worse. But our current policies, the recycling exemption for PBDEs and the very weak limits we currently have for POPs in waste, do exactly this. We have haz mat to be molded into toys. Stricter controls to POPs out of consumer goods are moral imperative. 

The recycling exemption impacts not only the health of the populations within the countries, but also the people living in developing countries where the waste ends up. 

To provide more protective regulations, the researchers recommend the following:

  • Not to be proposed 1,000 ppm limit for DecaBDE in recycled plastics, but rather to establish 10 ppm limit.
  • A more stringent limit for the definition of POPs waste (Low POPs Content Level), ideal to establish it as 50 ppm for all regulated PBDEs.
  • To withdraw the recycling exemptions for Penta and OctaBDE, they are currently established in Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, EU, Japan, South Korea and Turkey.
  • Add PBDD / Fs to Stockholm Convention for Global Reduction and Elimination.
  • Improving the definition of electronic waste within the Basel Convention framework.

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[1] The limit of 1 ng of TEQ / g for chlorinated dioxins in waste to be established as a limit for POPs waste according to Article 6 of the Stockholm Convention.

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