Health & Lifestyle

Urgent warning after high street toys found to contain chemicals HUNDREDS of times over safe limit

Toxic levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals are lurking in children’s toys sold on Britain’s high streets, a shock investigation revealed today. 

Tests on goods offered at outlets in Greater Manchester found they contained high rates of phthalates. 

Some were up to 300 times above permitted levels.

Exposure to the plastic-softening additives can cause reproductive problems. Over the past decade, phthalates have also been linked to infertility, cancer and impaired development.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) labelled the findings ‘the tip of the iceberg’.

Tests on goods offered at outlets in Greater Manchester by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, found they contained high rates of phthalates. Pictured, the children's toys that failed product safety testing

Tests on goods offered at outlets in Greater Manchester by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, found they contained high rates of phthalates. Pictured, the children’s toys that failed product safety testing 

Under current UK and EU legislation, toys must contain no more than 0.1 per cent of the additives. But enforcement officers found a bow and arrow toy set on sale exceeded the target — containing over 100 times the legal limit of phthalates

Under current UK and EU legislation, toys must contain no more than 0.1 per cent of the additives. But enforcement officers found a bow and arrow toy set on sale exceeded the target — containing over 100 times the legal limit of phthalates

A fashion doll set was also found to be 300 times over the limit. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) labelled the findings 'the tip of the iceberg'

A fashion doll set was also found to be 300 times over the limit. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) labelled the findings ‘the tip of the iceberg’

It said it was ‘deeply concerned’ that such large quantities of the chemicals were still being used in children’s toys.

Under current UK and EU legislation, toys must contain no more than 0.1 per cent of the additives.

But enforcement officers found a bow and arrow toy set on sale exceeded the target — containing over 100 times the legal limit of phthalates. 

A fashion doll set, meanwhile, was found to be 300 times over the limit.

Katrina Phillips, chief executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust, said: ‘[We’re] all looking to save money wherever we can. 

WHAT ARE PHTHALATES? AND WHAT EVERYDAY ITEMS ARE THEY FOUND IN? 

What are phthalates?

Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to soften plastic to make it more flexible. 

Some of the most common phthalates are dibutyl phthalate (DBP), benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) and disodecyl phthalate (DIDP). 

Their use is limited in some countries. 

People consume them by eating and drinking food that have been in contact with phthalate particles, or through inhaling them.

Young children may also ingest them by crawling and touching lots of things and then putting their hands in their mouth. 

What products are they in? 

The chemicals are used in numerous everyday products.

Household products such as food packaging, cleaning products, toys, vinyl flooring and wall coverings may contain the chemicals. 

They are also used in medical products, such as blood bags and tubing.

Toiletries including nail polish, hair spray, aftershave, soap, shampoo and perfume also use the chemicals. 

What are the risks?

Exposure to the plastic-softening additives can cause reproductive problems and are understood to disrupt the hormones of developing children.

But the risks posed by phthalates – which can also be carcinogenic – have been known for a number of years. 

Over the past decade, phthalates have been linked to infertility, obesity and impaired development. 

Pregnant women and younger children are believed to be most vulnerable to the effects of phthalates especially as young children are likely to put toys in their mouths. 

‘But children don’t stop having birthdays just because money is tight. 

‘This puts parents at real risk of buying cheap toys that don’t meet safety standards — and that can badly hurt or even kill their child.’

Phthalates are used to make plastics more durable and are found in hundreds of products, such as flooring, plastic packaging and garden equipment.

People consume them by eating and drinking food that have been in contact with phthalate particles, or through inhaling them.

Young children may also ingest them by crawling and touching lots of things and then putting their hands in their mouth.

The European Chemicals Agency says phthalates can ‘interfere with our hormonal systems and cause allergies’.

Testing by the watchdogs elsewhere in Salford also found a desktop fan heater with multiple failings.

This included the mains plug and wires not meeting safety standards, a counterfeit fuse and inadequate safety guards.

It came as part of a wider product safety campaign with Salford city council’s trading standards unit to investigate whether the cost of living crisis was putting shoppers at risk from buying dangerous cheaper goods.

CTSI visited high streets in Salford to ask consumers about which products they were looking to save money on.

They found phone chargers, toys and games, hair straighteners, toasters, kettles and washing machines were most sought after at lower prices.

It warned similar products are being sold across the UK – mostly at price-led retail outlets or via overseas sellers on online marketplaces – and consumers that are turning to cheaper alternatives are leaving themselves ‘increasingly vulnerable’.

The organisation said: ‘This is just the tip of the iceberg and the product safety issues uncovered are likely to be replicated across the UK. 

‘With the cost-of-living crisis causing consumers to turn to cheaper alternatives, consumers are increasingly vulnerable to unsafe products.’ 

CTSI chief executive John Herriman said: ‘Businesses selling unsafe goods are taking no regard for the safety of their customers. 

‘We see reports in the news of fires from faulty household goods, so these unscrupulous shopkeepers could be selling products that are deadly.

‘We urge businesses to think carefully about the supply chains they are using to source their products, and if buying from overseas sellers they should be checking for product safety testing information and ensure they have contact details that can be used to trace the products back to the manufacturer in the event of a problem.’

He added: ‘No parent should be buying a toy from the high street and have to second-guess whether it’s safe or not. 

‘Trading Standards are working hard to rid our shops and online marketplaces of these unsafe products, but more needs to be done to stop these products from reaching UK shores.

‘We are still awaiting the publication of the Government’s Product Safety Review – hopefully this will be a vital piece of the puzzle in implementing much-needed measures that improve the safety of products including toys and electrical goods. 

‘It is an issue that is simply too important to delay any longer.’

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