According to new research published in Environmental Science and Technology, the plastic used in many second-hand toys could pose a risk to children’s health because it may not meet the most up-to-date international safety guidelines.
University of Plymouth used X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry to analyze the presence of elements within individual toys.
Dr. Andrew Turner, research lead said, “This is the first systematic investigation of hazardous elements in second-hand plastic toys in the UK. Second-hand toys are an attractive option for families because they can be inherited directly from friends or relatives or obtained cheaply and readily from charity stores, flea markets, and the internet. But while the Toy Safety Directive applies to new products there is no regulation covering the recycling or resale 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. However, consumers should be made more aware of the potential risks associated with small, mountable and brightly colored old plastic toys or components. Without that, the attractive cost, convenience and recyclability of previously used toys have the potential to create a legacy of chemical contamination for younger children.”
Scientists analyzed 200 used plastic toys that they found in homes, nurseries and charity shops across the South West of England.
These included cars, trains, construction products, figures, and puzzles, with all of them being of a size that could be chewed by young children.
In this analysis, scientists discovered high concentrations of hazardous elements including antimony, barium, bromine, cadmium, chromium, lead, and selenium – which are chronically toxic to children at low levels over an extended period of time in many building blocks, figures, and items of jewelry that were typically either yellow, red or black.
Further tests showed that under simulated stomach conditions (involving extraction in dilute hydrochloric acid) several toys released quantities of bromine, cadmium or lead that exceeded limits set by the European Council’s Toy Safety Directive, with the release of cadmium exceeding its limit value by an order of magnitude in some cases.