You may not know it, but your kids could playing with harmful plastic toys. And these toys may be poisoning them.
New research has revealed that plastic in older toys pose a risk to children’s health. Many manufacturers produced toys during a time when restrictions on harsh chemicals were much more lax.
Older parents may have passed down these old plastic toys from one generation to the next. They tend to be unaware of the fact that these toys could contain high concentrations of toxic chemicals.
Hazardous elements in harmful plastic toys
Scientists from the University of Plymouth analysed 200 used plastic toys like cars, trains, construction products and figures. The researchers found these toys in homes, nurseries, and charity shops across Southwest England.
After analysing these toys, they found that some had high concentrations of “hazardous elements.” These are antimony, barium, bromine, cadmium, chromium, lead and selenium — toxic to children at low levels over an extended period of time.
“This is the first systematic investigation of hazardous elements in secondhand plastic toys in the UK,” lead author Dr. Andrew Turner said.
“Secondhand toys are an attractive option to families because they can be inherited directly from friends or relatives or obtained cheaply and readily from charity stores, flea markets and the internet.”
Image source: Pixabay
Lead in harmful plastic toys
The researchers conducted more tests on the harmful plastic toys and found something disturbing. The tests showed that under simulated stomach conditions (using something called an artificial stomach), several toys released quantities of the chemicals bromine, cadmium, or lead that exceeded limits set by the European Council’s Toy Safety Directive.
They also found that the toys with the most chemicals were usually yellow, red, or black.
Turner said toy manufacturers used chemicals containing cadmium and lead to make these colours.
He also said that while the Toy Safety Directive is enforced on new toys, there is no regulation covering the recycling or re-sale of older toys.
“With the introduction and refinement of the Toy Safety Directive, the plastics industry has had to take steps to eliminate hazardous elements from new toys,” he said.
Image source: Pixabay
Risky harmful plastic toys
“However, consumers should be made more aware of the potential risks associated with small, mouthable and brightly coloured old plastic toys or components.”
It’s important then that parents watch out for any toys they’re handing down from one generation to the next. It’s highly probable that these could be harmful to children.
Turner said it’s difficult to say how long it takes for a toy to collect these chemicals over time.
“Toys made within the last decade are reasonably safe,” he said. “It’s the older ones that seem to be passed down through generations, but it is difficult to give a time scale.”
Image source: File photo
Don’t let kids chew harmful plastic toys
“Parents should check the condition of the toy and avoid children pulling them in their mouth – which I know is hard to ensure,” Turner explained further. “They should also avoid brightly-coloured red and yellow objects from the past.”
Turner advised that cleaning cannot fully get rid of these chemicals since they are within the plastic. “These toys are generally safe to handle by hand, it’s just when they start chewing them.”
“If you want to be on the safe side, avoid using them. I guess the real danger is when they swallow them,” Turner warned.
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