Vietnams National Technical Regulation on Safety of Toys
Circular Number 09/2019/TT-BKHCN, also known as the National Technical Regulation on Safety of Toys. The circular was promulgated in September 2019, and came into effect from December 31, 2019
Many toys, especially soft plastic toys, may contain unsafe phthalates that can potentially impair fertility or have endocrine-disrupting effects. Phthalates are not bound in plastic and are released from toys over time when children touch them or put them in their mouths. They can also pollute the air and dust in the indoor climate. It is thus important to have strict regulations regarding their production, distribution, import and implementation. Awareness raising and consumer protection are additional important tools for protecting the health of children.
The Circular modernizes the safety standards (physical and chemical) for toys in circulation on the Vietnamese market. It updates the migrations and concentrations limits of chemicals already regulated by the previous policy, by aligning these with new international standards. The national legislation harmonises with more protective regulations already in place in other countries and regions such as the European Directive Phthalate-containing soft PVC toys and childcare articles.
- Regulates of the concentration and migration limits of hazardous chemicals through the
- establishes of more protective technical and chemicals safety standards
- Regulates of 6 phthalates in toys and childcare articles: DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP, DNOP
- Promotes a shift in manufacturers activities towards the substitution of chemicals considered hazardous with non-toxic alternatives.
- Reinforces a monitoring procedure by a certification, marking and labelling system
The Decree No. 43/2017/ND-CP of April 14, 2017, implements the labelling requirements for goods. Cục hóa chất – Bộ công thương (cuchoachat.gov.vn). It allows consumers to be informed on the products’ compliance.
Law on Chemical, No 06/2007/QH12, general framework providing a regulation on chemicals Law of Chemical No. 06_2007_QH12.doc (ilo.org)
The regulation establishes a broad definition of toys since it includes any product for use in play under the age of 16 (whereas other countries or regions generally set a limit at 14 years old). In addition, it advances the expansion of the list of chemical substances restricted in toys including six phthalates. The national legislation harmonises with more protective regulations already in place in other countries and regions such as the European Directive Phthalate-containing soft PVC toys and childcare articles (2005/84/EC)81. The policy also insists on a monitoring and inspection procedure and focuses on strengthening the compliance control of toys, by referring to the certification, marking and labelling mechanism. Moreover, the policy is based on the cooperation of different relevant governmental entities and the drafting procedure also enables the intervention of relevant external stakeholders from civil society and the private sector. This general framework can then serve as a basis for further improvements in all other related areas, including the issue of chemicals in toys. The awarded policy contributes to raising public awareness and fostering a shift towards long-term thinking, bringing the notion of safeguarding future generations to the fore.
Our “Best Policies” are those that meet the Future Just Lawmaking Principles and recognise the interconnected challenges we face today. The goal of principled policy work is to ensure that important universal standards of sustainability and equity, human rights and freedoms, and respect for the environment are taken into account. It also helps to increase policy coherence between different sectors.
Sustainable use of natural resources
- Ensures the safety of children by reducing their exposure to hazardous chemicals.
- Contributes to environmental protection by limiting the harmful chemicals used to make toys.
- Addresses many SDGs like SDG 12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns and SDG 3 Good health and well-being.
Equity and poverty eradication
- Protects children, a group particularly vulnerable.
- Provides legal basis (to claim compensation and initiate lawsuit) for the consumer.
- Strengthens the rights of consumer: right to health and right to information (non-hazardous alternatives, information by labelling, campaigns…).
- Contributes to the protection of future generations.
- Establishes strict limitations of hazardous chemicals in products. Implements market entry requirements to make sure toys comply with the safety standards. It aims to prevent the exposure and harmful consequences on health.
- Operates on a scientific basis and global knowledge of chemical hazards.
Public participation, access to information and justice
- Intergovernmental working group to draft the law.
- The policy was open to comments during the drafting process. Then, in accordance with the Law on development of legislation, the final draft was officially published for consultation (participation of NGOs and private sector).
Good governance and human security
- Provides articles on management provisions, responsibilities and implementation.
- Different governmental agencies involved in the enforcement of the policy: the Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality (Ministry of Science and Technology) and the market surveillance agency (Ministry of Industry and Trade).
Integration and interrelationship
- The policy was drafted by a working team made up of all relevant ministerial departments on the issue.
- The drafting procedure includes the possibility for civil society and private sector to comment.
- Polluter-pays principle is ensured by the EPR decree which makes companies responsible for the waste of their products.
Common but differentiated responsibilities
- Acknowledgment of new harmonized standards on chemicals and methods of chemical product testing (international standards or regulation in place in other countries).
- Procedure of compliance relies on the manufacturers.
- Communication work through webinars, school intervention and campaign to raise public awareness on hazardous chemicals, especially among vulnerable groups.
Before 2009, the production and marketing of toys was regulated by the general goods legislations, more specifically, by the Law on Product and goods quality (No. 05/2007/QH12, from 2007) and by the Law on standards and technical regulations (No. 68/2006/QH11, 2006). In 2009, a circular is published: the. The Circular QCVN 3:2009/BKHCN84 published in 2009 is to regulate particularly toys. It aims to tackle one of the main concerns raised by media and civil society: the proliferation of non-compliant toys with the standards in the national market. Although certification systems have been established, their effective implementation has been a challenge. In addition, Vietnam’s neighbouring countries do not require the same restrictions or ban on chemicals in toys for their industries and enter Vietnam without complying with national chemical standards. Therefore, implementing and reinforcing a monitoring system more effectively was a necessity as well as to modernize and harmonize the standards with the new scientific knowledge regarding hazardous chemicals. The 2009 national technical regulation on safety of toys is based on international standards (especially ISO) and needed to keep up to date with the evolution of the standards and the development of more protective regulations in other countries. The main progress of the policy is based on the new regulation of phthalates. The circular is also the result of cooperation between different governmental agencies and Ministries, but also with relevant external stakeholders.
Given the vulnerability of children to chemicals, this National Technical Regulation aims to reduce their exposure to hazardous chemicals. It contributes to the implementation of the law of protection, care and education of children of Vietnam by regulating the concentration and migration limits of hazardous chemicals through the establishment of more protective technical and chemicals safety standards. It also aims to bring about a shift in manufacturers activities towards the substitution of chemicals considered hazardous with non-toxic alternatives and to reinforce a monitoring procedure by a certification, marking and labelling system.
The Circular establishes settings with regard to safety physical standards for toys, limited standards of the concentration of different hazardous chemicals (including for 6 phthalates and formaldehydes obligation to comply with the labelling regulation. It also defines testing methods and implementation procedures that make the right to enter the market contingent on certain conditions. Moreover, it establishes the responsibility of toys manufacturers, traders, importers but also distributors compliance with legal standards and control procedures.
The policy establishes updated physical and chemical standards based on international standards. It extends the regulations on chemical substances established by the 2009 policy, by updating them to new international standards. Toys must comply with the ISO 8124-3:2010 standards defining migratory limits for Antinomy (Sb), Arsenic (As), Barium (Ba), Cadmium (Cd), Lead (Pb), Mercury (Hg) and Selenium (Se). The bill also extends the specific content limits for formaldehyde in toys intended for children under 3 years old, and the regulation of eight primary aromatic amines. It also prohibits the manufacture, sale or distribution in commerce of any toy or childcare article that contains di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), or benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), in concentrations exceeding 0.1 percent. It also establishes a maximum concentration of 0,1 percent of diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP), or di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP) in any toy or childcare article intended for a child under three years old if that product can be placed in the child’s mouth. The policy also attempts to reinforce the upstream control of toy placement in the market.
Furthermore, the Circular implements a clear verification process, as a criterion to enter the Vietnamese toy market. Every toy producer needs a declaration of conformity proving the compliance of their product with the national regulation. This declaration of conformity must be based on conformity assessment results from a registered certification body. This declaration cannot be valid for more than 3 years. Then, toys must bear a conformity mark to circulate on the market. This is complemented by a labelling obligation to make the information clear to the consumer. The market surveillance agency’s role is to ensure that products comply with established standards once they are in the market. There has also been awareness raising campaigns and information available to the public.
The toys’ compliance with national standards did improve over time. The imports compliance monitoring has improved, one of the main previous problems. However, despite the efforts made, the challenge of imports, particularly via illegal channels, persists. The same can be said for the online market and recycled products and an impact assessment or evaluation of the implementation of the policy could be enhanced. A notable point is the communication effort of the government to inform and educate the population about hazardous chemicals. Raising awareness among consumers is a necessary step in reducing children’s exposure to chemicals. To raise awareness, governmental agencies have implemented different actions such as articles and campaigns and each adopted regulation is published on the Ministry website, ensuring transparency, and allowing everyone to follow the standards’ evolution.
The issue of children’s exposure to hazardous chemicals is a global concern that necessitates worldwide regulation. This policy implements existing standards from other countries and regions – clearly its key components apply elsewhere. Indeed, it can certainly still inspire and be adapted in other neighbour countries with similar situations. Strong cooperation already exists between Vietnamese governmental agencies and nearby countries, aimed at sharing knowledge and exchanging implemented policies. For instance, the Vietnam chemicals agency is in touch with the Laos chemicals agency to exchange experiences and regulations on chemicals or minerals that are already in place in Vietnam.
Labelling legislation of goods, Decree No 43/2017/NĐ-CP (2017) https://thuvienphapluat.vn/van-ban/Thuong-mai/Nghi-dinh-43-2017-ND-CP-nhan-hanghoa-346310.aspx
Nguyên Nga (2015), Poison ‘hiding’ in toys, Thanh niên, https://thanhnien.vn/chat-doc-nup-trong-do-choi-185528567.htm
Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality, https://tcvn.gov.vn
Vietnam Certification Centre, https://www.quacert.gov.vn/vi/gioi-thieu-quacert.iso156.html
Law on Child Protection, Care and Education. Law No. 25/2004/QH11 (2004). https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/natlex4.detail?p_isn=84243
International Organization for Standardization, ISO 8124-3 :2010 (2010) https://www.iso.org/standard/43471.html