Parents warned vs unregistered plastic balloons with cancer-causing chemical

October 19, 2021 - 3:57 PM
File photo of plastic balloon blowing kits. (File photo/Ecowaste Coalition)

Environmental watchdogs discouraged parents from purchasing unregistered plastic balloons that contain a cancer-causing chemical.

EcoWaste Coalition issued this advisory on Facebook on October 17, citing a previous public health warning from the local Food and Drug Administration.

“The EcoWaste Coalition advises parents to discourage their children from blowing unregistered plastic balloons that may expose them to benzene, a cancer-causing chemical,” the coalition said.

EcoWaste cited FDA Advisory No. 2019-102 that prohibited the following toy and child care products:

  • J.H. Toy Lasting Friend Space Balloon
  • Magic Balloon
  • Zestar Plastic Balloon size 11
  • Zestar Plastic Balloon Size 7

“FDA post-marketing surveillance (PMS) activities have verified that the abovementioned TCCA products have not gone through the notification process of the agency and have not been issued the proper marketing authorization (MA),” read the advisory.

The coalition, however, still managed to purchase unregistered plastic balloons at the Divisoria Mall in Manila.

Each pack costs P85 or P3.50 per kit.

A photo of this product was also uploaded by EcoWaste.

Aside from being unregistered, the environment watchdog said these products were found to contain alarming 15,000 parts per million (ppm) levels of cancer-causing benzene.

The tests were conducted on plastic balloon samples EcoWaste submitted to the East Avenue Medical Center Poison Control Unit for analysis in 2018.

The poison control unit used a photoionization detector for its tests.

“This is several orders of magnitude greater than the European Union’s limit of 5 ppm!” EcoWaste said.

“Canada, which has banned benzene-containing plastic balloons since 1973, warned that if children ‘blow balloons for extended periods, they may experience early symptoms of central nervous system depression or dysfunction, including euphoria, hallucinations, dizziness, and difficulties with coordination of voluntary movements,’” it added.

The group strongly advised parents to look for other toys instead of plastic balloon blowing kits.

“Plastic balloon blowing kits must not contain benzene! Look for safer toys for your kids to play with if this cannot be assured,” it said.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), benzene is a colorless or light yellow liquid normally used to produce “plastics, resins, and nylon and synthetic fibers,” and other types of pesticides, detergents and lubricants.

Long-term exposure to benzene, however, causes harmful effects to the human body, mostly on the blood.

“Benzene causes harmful effects on the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells, leading to anemia. It can also cause excessive bleeding and can affect the immune system, increasing the chance for infection,” CDC said.

It can also cause leukemia in humans.

“Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, cancer of the blood-forming organs,” CDC said.