Toxins in Rubik’s Cube a severe threat to children’s health-Dhaka Tribune

The next time you think of buying a Rubik’s Cube for your little one, or any other child, think again – you might be handing them a toy that could do more harm than good.A recent study has revealed that the popular combination puzzle, used worldwide as a stimulator for children’s brain development, is highly likely to contain harmful toxins residue from the recycled electronic waste used to make the toy. These toxins are known to cause damage to the central nervous system and reduce intellectual capacity of children as well as adults. The Environment and Social Development Organisation (ESDO), a Bangladesh-based NGO working on environment conservation, revealed this information during their presentation of a global survey on toxic chemicals in children’s toys at a scientific conference on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in Florence, Italy, which concluded yesterday. The survey was conducted by ESDO, International Physical Activity and Environment Network (IPEN), and Arnika Association, an environmental NGO in the Czech Republic, in association with other partner organisations in different countries. The survey examined samples of Rubik’s Cube and similar toys collected from 16 countries, including Bangladesh, and found them carrying polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), called OctaBDE and/or DecaBDE, which are dangerous for human health. Both OctaBDE and DecaBDE are flame retardant chemicals mainly used to fireproof electronic products. These chemicals are known to disrupt the hormone system in human body and hamper the development of children’s nervous system as well as intelligence. In Dhaka, ESDO collected 12 samples – all imported from China – from different shops and sent them to the Czech Republic to be tested; eight of the samples were found to contain significant levels of the toxic chemicals. “Puzzle toys such as Rubik’s Cubes are supposed to catalyse children’s intelligence, but the presence of toxins from recycled e-waste creates quite the opposite impact on children who play with them,” explained Jitka Strakova, survey coordinator from Arnika. “Recycling e-waste can save resources and energy, but it must be done in a way that does not put banned toxic substances back into commerce, which can threaten human health and the environment.” According to United Nations Environment Programme, POPs are chemical substances that remain in the environment, are transported over large distances, bioaccumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to the environment and human health. According to World Health Organisation, POPs effects in humans after high-level exposure include skin rash, eyelid swelling, headaches and vomiting. Long-term exposure can result in reproductive damage, and if foetuses are exposed to these toxins, they might suffer from neural and developmental changes. Md Enamul Haque, teacher at Dhaka University’s biochemistry and molecular biology department, said: “In every organic compound, there might be some dangerous POPs present. These toxins can affect each and every organ of a human body. It can affect the nervous system and cause allergies, respiratory problems and other problems.” Shahriar Hossain, secretary general at ESDO and a toxic chemical expert, said recycled e-waste plastics toys is used widely to make children’s toys, which may pose threat to the healthy development of children. “For the sake of our children’s as well as the workers’ health, we urge our policy makers to grant no recycling exemption for POP chemicals. This dirty recycling, which often takes place in low and middle income countries, is spreading poisons in recycling sites, in our homes and in our bodies.”

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