The Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has published an international standard on phthalates used as plasticizers in toys and children's products.
The standard specifies a method for the determination of six phthalates in toys and children's products. It does not specify the levels allowed in the products — those are set on a country-by-country basis.
The standard is called ISO 8124-6:2014, Safety of toys, Part 6: Certain phthalate esters in toys and children's products, and is based largely on an existing Chinese national standard. Huang Lina, a toy safety expert with the Guangdong Provincial Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, led a committee to draft the standard, according to Beijing-based China Toy and Juvenile Products Association (CTJPA).
Huang has also taken a part in drawing up European Union toy standards, CTJPA said.
China is the world's biggest toy producer and exporter, representing 70 percent of the toys sold in the global market, CTJPA said. In 2013, China exported $12.4 billion of toys, two thirds of which manufactured in Guangdong province.
In the first half of 2014, China's toy exports soared 37 percent to $8.8 billion, compared to the same period last year, CTJPA data shows.
CTJPA said Chinese toy makers have always had to follow product standards made by other companies. The trade group, citing 2008 toy safety scandals, said Chinese toy companies have had to take on enormous risks of product recalls.
The committee has been working on the standard since 2010. It involved nearly 200 manufacturers and testing agencies and thousands of sets of data.
While China adopted a standard that put limits on six phthalates, restricting them to no more than 0.1 percent of the weight of the toys and child care products, the ISO standard did not specify a threshold.
Instead, the ISO standard specifies a method for the determination of dinbutyl phthalate (DBP), benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), bis-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP), diisononyl phthalate (DINP), and diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) in toys and children's products.
“Considering the diversity of laws and regulations in different countries, this International Standard has not set out limits for phthalate esters. It is intended to be used as a method standard in conformity assessment,” it said in the introduction.
As the first international toy standard drafted by China, CTJPA called it a breakthrough and said it raised China's profile in the international toy industry and also signals China's determination to take a more proactive approach on toy safety.