Recycling plastics containing toxic flame retardant chemicals found in electronic waste results in contamination one of the world's best-selling toys, according to a study by the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN).
The organisation said that, ironically, the chemical contaminants can damage the nervous system and reduce intellectual capacity but are found in Rubik's Cubes – a puzzle toy designed to exercise the mind.
The study was performed by IPEN and Arnika. 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 found that 90% of the samples contained OctaBDE or DecaBDE. Nearly half of them (43%) contained HBCD. These chemicals were said to be known to harm the reproductive system and disrupt hormone systems, adversely impacting intelligence, attention, learning and memory.
The study emerged days before the Stockholm Convention decides whether to continue allowing the recycling of materials containing OctaBDE and possibly make a new recycling exemption for DecaBDE. The treaty's expert committee was said to have warned against the practice.
"Recycling materials that contain toxic chemicals contaminates new products, continues exposure, and undermines the credibility of recycling," said Pam Miller, IPEN Co-chair. "Governments should end this harmful loophole."
Arnika’s Jitka Strakova added: "Weak standards mean toxic products and dirty recycling, which often takes place in low and middle income countries and spreads poisons from recycling sites into our homes and bodies."
Another critical decision of the Stockholm Convention Conference will be to establish hazardous waste limits.
Protective hazardous waste limits would make wastes subject to the treaty's obligations for destruction – and not permit their recycling. Surprisingly, some of the toxic chemical levels in children's products in this study exceeded proposed hazardous waste limits.
"We need protective hazardous waste limits," said Strakova.
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