Toys are a part of children’s everyday lives from their infancy. Children explore their surroundings by tasting and licking at things. However, since children’s bodies are not yet fully developed, they are more sensitive to chemicals compared with adults. When children are exposed to the same amount of a substance as an adult, they are exposed to more of that substance in proportion to their body weight. The immune system and brain are particularly sensitive because they continue to develop after birth as well. Children breathe more quickly and eat and drink more in proportion to their body weight compared with adults. Since children cannot always distinguish what is harmful from what is not, it is important to give them even greater protection.
Hazardous chemicals prohibited in toys
The safety requirements for toys are exceptionally strict, and the same legislation regarding toys applies throughout the EU. Many hazardous chemical substances are prohibited in sanitary products for children and in toys manufactured within or imported into the EU from other parts of the world. Chemical substances which are known to cause cancer or genetic damage or to affect the ability to have children are only allowed in small or very small concentrations. Examples of prohibited substances in these kinds of articles are very hazardous phthalates. Many fragrances are also prohibited, since they might be allergenic.
Since legislation is undergoing constant revision, old toys may contain substances we now know are hazardous. Hand in to a recycling station toys which are over ten years old and which consist of non-rigid plastic. Such toys may contain phthalates, which are now prohibited. Keep children away from chewing and licking at things which are not intended for that purpose.
Chalks, pens, paints and glue
Most paints and glues intended for children are water-based and do not contain harmful solvents. Oil paints for adult use, however, should not be used by children. Acrylic paints may be an alternative if your child wants to paint ‘for real’.
Items that twinkle and make sounds
Many toys contain batteries which enable them to twinkle, tootle or play melodies. Hand in used batteries to a battery collection point. If you are unable to remove the battery from the product, return the whole product to the shop. The shop is obliged to take care of products with built-in batteries.
Items filled with liquid
Trinkets filled with liquids of various colours may contain mineral oil. This oil can be very dangerous if the trinket is broken and the child swallows its contents.
Toys that smell or shine
Toys which are scented may be allergenic. If a toy contains such a substance, it must have information about this provided on it. Many of these fragrances are prohibited within the EU.
Plastic necklaces containing luminous liquid
Luminous necklaces consist of thin plastic tubes filled with a luminous liquid. These plastic tubes may contain hazardous substances, such as phthalates. Therefore it is important not to bite or chew on such objects.
Modelling clay and play dough
Modelling clay and play dough often contain plastic with varying amounts of additives. Some of these are made of PVC and may contain hazardous phthalates. Clay and play dough should not be used by very small children.
Construction kits for toy cars, planes and boats are not intended for the very young. Paints and glues in packaging containing construction kits almost always contain solvents.
The Rapid Alert System (RAPEX) for dangerous non-food products allows the exchange of information between EU member states and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein on products which pose a risk to consumer health and safety.