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Warning: cheap toys could contain harmful chemicals

Posted on: 28 June 2023

Consumers across the region are being urged to ensure that the toys they buy display the UKCA mark, or the European CE equivalent, on the packaging following concerns that the cost-of-living crisis is driving people to buy cheaper but potentially dangerous products.

The warning, from Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service which covers Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay, follows toy testing by our national partners the Chartered Institute of Trading Standards (CTSI).

Despite UK legislation to protect the public, recent testing on a toy bow-and-arrow set revealed that the product contained 100 times the legal limit of phthalates; while a fashion doll set was 300 times over the legal limit.

Phthalates are plastic-softening chemicals that are used to make plastic more durable.

The use of certain phthalates is tightly restricted in toys across Europe and toy products must contain no more than 0.1 per cent.

Restricted phthalates are carcinogenic and can cause reproductive problems and can affect child growth and neurodevelopment.

Pregnant women are vulnerable as are young children, who are prone to putting things in their mouths.

Other items that failed safety tests include a desktop fan heater with a counterfeit fuse and inadequate safety guards and an adaptor plug on a set of children’s LED lights. This was found to have no breakdown isolation between the input and output, which is a fire hazard.

CTSI’s product safety campaign sought to explore the link between the cost-of-living crisis and whether consumers were being forced to buy cheaper products, and if that was putting consumers at risk from substandard and unsafe goods.

They visited local high streets and found that the top products shoppers are seeking to save money on are phone chargers, toys, hair straighteners, washing machines, toasters and kettles.

One consumer said that his son’s phone charger broke, and he needed to replace it, as the phone is essential for his child as he travels to school alone.

The consumer said while he is well informed about the dangers of cheap chargers, he had no choice but to buy an unbranded charger due to an unexpected energy bill.

Head of the Heart of the South West Trading Standards Fakir Osman said: “Unfortunately, there are business that only think about profit and selling unsafe goods with little thought for people’s safety.

“We understand that the cost-of-living crises has put enormous pressure on families, and often tough choices have to be made, but to safeguard your family I would urge parents to buy carefully from reputable stores and toy companies and avoid dangerous toys that are putting children at risk.

“Always look for the UKCA or CE mark, as this shows that the product has been tested and is safe.”

John Herriman, Chief Executive of CTSI, said: “Businesses selling unsafe goods have no regard for the safety of their customers.

“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.

“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.”