Another Chinese toy in Vietnam found to contain cancerous compound

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A boy holds a Chinese plastic ball at a shop in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre

In the latest discovery of toxic Chinese products in local markets, a ball toy has been found to include excessive levels of a dangerous plasticizer that is restricted in the US and Europe.

Tests done on samples of the inflatable balls taken from a shop in Ho Chi Minh City had levels of phthalates that were over 400 times more than acceptable rate of 1g/kg according to western standards, results that came from the national Quality Assurance and Testing Center Thursday showed.

Vietnam has yet to set a threshold for safe amounts of the compound, which can cause cancer and deformities in unborn babies and infertility in men.

Tran Van Xiem, head of the southern branch of Consumer Goods Quality Management Department at the Ministry of Science and Technology, said the balls are favorites among parents as they are cheap and soft.

The balls, distinguished from most ball toys with raised dots, are sold for VND15,000 (less than a US dollar) apiece and carry no information about their ingredients, much less warnings.

Vietnam authorities on Wednesday also ordered the recall of Chinese fruit-head dolls after tests found they also contain phthalates.

The tests were conducted after quality officials were pressed by the media last month about the dolls having been removed from a shelf in the UK. The dolls are banned in Europe and the US.

The country earlier this year imposed similar orders on two other Chinese toys -- a ride-on reindeer, after it was revoked in Singapore, and a battery-operated car which both contained excessive amounts of the chemical.

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Ngo Quy Viet, head of the Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality, said Vietnam has rarely taken proactive tests as the budget for the job is limited. It was VND3.1 billion in 2013 and was cut to VND2.3 billion this year.

Viet told Tuoi Tre that shops selling the dangerous products are required to pay for the tests under the law but realistically, it's hard to recover the money from them.

An inspection by the science ministry between August and October last year by the science ministry found that 90 percent of toys in local markets come from China. Officials said most of them had been imported across the border in small quantities to escape detection.

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