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Dhaka Tribune

Toxic chemicals in erasers: Children at health risk

4 types of harmful phthalate chemicals were found among 30 out of 47 tested samples

Update : 15 Mar 2022, 06:09 PM

A study has found harmful chemicals in erasers, a common stationary item used mostly by children and students, that can cause severe damage to the human body.

Phthalate, a group of chemicals, are found in erasers which is considered as endocrine disruptors and may cause attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) syndrome, hormonal imbalance, and affect the neurological developments of children, the study notes.

The findings of the study, titled “Toxic Chemicals in Kids Stationeries: Phthalates in Erasers”,  was revealed at a virtual event on Monday.

The research was conducted collaboratively by Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO) in association with the Financial Industry Public Interest Foundation and Wonjin Institute for Occupational and Environmental Health (WIOEH) in Seoul, South Korea.

Syed Marghub Murshed, chairperson of ESDO and former secretary of the government of Bangladesh, said: “Erasers are essential stationery for a kid but it is unfortunate that these erasers are posing danger. The government needs to take initiatives to create public awareness about phthalates and their presence in everyday products.”

Phthalates are widely used as additives in a range of plastics and other materials that are found in many consumer products. They are used to make plastics, such as PVC, soft and flexible.

The study was conducted to assess the situation of phthalate presence in locally found erasers. Samples were collected from nine South Asian countries, including Bangladesh.

A total of 47 erasers of various brands and colors were collected from random local shops in Bangladesh to conduct the study. Of them, phthalates were found in 30 samples. 

Of the 30 detected samples, 21 samples exceeded the safety limit of phthalates.

Md Moniruzzaman, additional secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said: “This is indeed an important finding. Our future generation will lead the world. Their safety should be our number one priority and awareness needs to be created as it is a very new topic for most of us.”

A longitudinal study carried out in the USA proved the impact of phthalates on the neuro behavioural development of children. 

The study by Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, lasting nine years, showed a higher incidence of aggression, emotional instability, attention deficits and depression among children.

Dr Md Mahbubur Rahman, project coordinator of Environmental Intervention Unit at icddr,b, said that scientific studies proved relations between certain phthalates and reproductive toxicity, asthma in children, and also developmental disorders, such as ADHD syndrome, characterized by attention deficit and hyperactivity.

Dr Yun-Keun Lee, executive director at WIOEH, said: “ESDO and WIOEH have met and shared a common interest to deal with endocrine disrupting chemicals problems in consumer products in Asian countries and hopefully we can work on this more and make people aware as much as possible.”

Dr Shahriar Hossain, secretary general of ESDO, stated that many countries have already imposed a regulation on specific chemicals. 

Korea has a regulation on phthalates and as a result phthalates were found in only one of their samples. 

“It shows that proper regulation can minimize the threat to a great extent. The government should take this into account and impose a proper regulation on restricting phthalate content in products, particularly in children’s stationeries like erasers which they use daily,” Dr Shahriar said.

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