HA NOI (VNS) — Chinese stickers containing phthalates – a group of toxic chemicals believed to be harmful to human health – are still being sold by street vendors and toy stores near primary schools in Ha Noi despite warnings from local agencies.
The sticks are priced at VND3,000-20,000 (10-90 cents) per set.
According to scientists, phthalates are additives that give plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) properties such as flexibility and stress resistance. Six phthalates are commonly used, but one type known as DEHP has received the most regulatory and scientific attention due to evidence demonstrating its testosterone-blocking potential in males. Phthalates have also been linked to early puberty in girls.
A student of Quang Trung Primary School, holding a set of sticker in her hands, said she exchanged a paper milk bottle for a set of Pikachu stickers (a popular Pokemon game character) at a street vendor near her school's gate.
Nguyen Thu Huong, of Bach Mai Street, said she bought stickers for her son because he liked them and the price was reasonable. She did not know about the warning.
Vu Thu Trang, a mother of six-year-old twin girls in Dong Da District, said she stopped allowing her daughters to buy the stickers after learning about the warning from local media, even though her daughters adored the items.
Nguyen Khanh Van said her six-year-old son's school did not inform parents about the stickers.
Nguyen Thi Ngan Binh, principal of Dang Tran Con A Primary School in Thanh Xuan District, told online newspaper Dan tri that the school knew that Chinese stickers were being sold and were harmful, but it failed to intervene.
Binh said the school kept mum because it had no rights to manage the street vendors or toy stores that sell the stickers, and those rights belonged to local agencies.
"The only thing the school could do is warning the students not to buy these stickers," she said.
Nguyen Thi Bich, head of Phuong Canh Primary School in Nam Tu Liem District, said that a lot of Chinese stickers were for sale near the school gate.
Local agencies took measures to bring the situation under control, but the sticker sellers re-appeared shortly thereafter, she said.
On December 11, the Department for Management of Goods and Product Quality sent an official message ordering local media to warn parents not to buy the stickers.
The alert was issued after tests for two samples of stickers, conducted by the department, detected phthalates with concentrations up to 48,250 mg/kg – more than 48 times higher than allowable level under European standards.
However, in Viet Nam, the national technical regulation on toy safety, issued in 2009 by the Ministry of Science and Technology, has not stipulated a concentration limit for phthalates in children's toys.
The department also required agencies to conduct more inspections and impose fines if any people were found selling the stickers.
In the northern Thai Binh Province, a Vietnam News Agency correspondent on Monday reported that the stickers were still being sold near primary schools. Many parents were seen buying the stickers for their children, even though the local education sector ordered schools, especially primary schools, to warn parents as well as students about the health dangers. — VNS