There are highly toxic flame retardants in children’s toys and related products made from recycled plastics generated from electronic waste, said a new global survey released on Monday.

The survey said chemical contaminants that can damage the nervous system and reduce intellectual capacity were found in Rubik’s Cubes—a puzzle toy usually made of recycled plastic.

The global study was carried out by IPEN (a global civil society network), Arnika (an environmental organization in the Czech Republic) including civil society organizations across the globe. Toxics Link, an India-based NGO working on environmental issues, was one of the participants in this study.

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As per the study, “the toxic chemicals OctaBDE, DecaBDE and HBCD are used in the plastic casings of electronic products and if they are not removed, they are carried into new products when the plastic is recycled."

The survey of products from 26 countries, including India, found that 90% of the samples contained OctaBDE or DecaBDE.

“Nearly half of them (43%) contained HBCD. In the study, six samples from India were analysed and found that four samples contained OctaBDE and DecaBDE at elevated concentrations. One of the samples contained HBCD at a high concentration which raises concerns," the study said.

It stressed that “these chemicals are persistent in the environment and known to harm the reproductive system and disrupt hormone systems, adversely impacting intelligence, attention, learning and memory."

“These toxic chemicals should not be present in children’s toys. The problem needs to be addressed immediately," said Satish Sinha, associate director of Toxics Link.

Surprisingly, some of the toxic chemical levels in children’s products in this study exceeded proposed hazardous waste limits.

“Two of the tested cubes purchased in India exceeded the proposed waste limit of 50 ppm for PBDEs/OctaBDE. The cubes contained 298ppm and 336 ppm OctaBDE," said Dr. Prashant Rajankar, programme coordinator, Toxics Link.

The survey comes just few days before the global Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Stockholm Convention is scheduled to start where it will be decided whether to continue allowing the recycling of materials containing OctaBDE and possibly make a new recycling exemption for DecaBDE.

“Recycling materials that contain toxic chemicals contaminates new products, continues exposure, and undermines the credibility of recycling. Governments should end this harmful loophole," said Joe DiGangi, who is senior science and technical advisor, IPEN.

The meeting of the three international Conventions—CoP to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions—are starting on 24 April in Geneva and will continue till 5 May. The meetings will also feature a high-level segment on 4-5 May.

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