With the back-to-school shopping season approaching, the Consumer Protection Committee yesterday said six types of soft plastic book bags contained excessive levels of plasticizers, with one registering 130 times the permitted level.
The committee collected 16 kinds of soft plastic book bags sold at wholesale markets and stationary stores in Taipei, Greater Kaohsiung and Greater Taichung in June, and had the book bags examined by the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection for the level of plasticizers, migration of certain elements (heavy metal substances) and formaldehyde.
Regulations set by the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection stipulate that eight kinds of plasticizers — dimethyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), butylbenzyl phthalate (BBP), diisononyl phthalate, diisodecyl phthalate and di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP) — may not exceed 0.1 percent of the item’s weight for children’s utilities and general stationery.
The survey result showed that all 16 bags examined contained plasticizers exceeding 0.1 percent of their weight, but only four of the bags were classified as children’s utilities and two listed as general stationery, so the committee demanded only six items be pulled from shelves.
Among the six book bags, a book bag with mermaid decorations was found containing levels of plasticizers of more than 130 times the permitted level, a book bag with the cartoon character Sponge Bob on it contained 112 times the permitted level and the other four book bags exceeded the permitted level by at least 13 times.
All six were manufactured in China.
The bureau said if the retailers refuse to take the offending items off the shelves within a given time limit, they will face a fine of between NT$60,000 and NT$1.5 million (US$2,000 and US$50,000), under the Consumer Protection Act (消費者保護法).
As for the result of the heavy metal and formaldehyde examinations, the committee said all 16 bags tested passed inspections.
However, the bureau said 11 book bags tested this time did not have all the required information on their product labels as stipulated by the Commodity Labeling Act (商品標示法), including three bags without labels written in Chinese characters and eight bags lacking information on the manufacturers or manufacturing date.
The unclear labeling violations can result in a fine of between NT$20,000 and NT$200,000 and violators can be repeatedly fined until the labels are improved, the bureau added.
Consumers should refrain from buying plastic book bags with strong irritating odors and should pay close attention to the product labels before making purchases, the bureau said, adding that children should not carry book bags that weigh more than 12.5 percent of their own weight, which can place too much pressure on their bodies.