Harmful Chemicals In Toys

November 3, 2021

It has long been known that various chemicals used in plastic toys in different parts of the world can be harmful to human health. However, it is difficult for parents to figure out how to avoid plastic toys that contain chemicals that can cause potential health risks to their children.

Regulations and labeling systems vary by region and country, and there is no international agreement on which substances should be banned from toy materials. For the most part, international regulations and lists of “chemicals of concern” in toys focus on certain groups of substances with known harmful properties, such as phthalates, but do not cover the broader range of chemicals found in toys. plastic toys.


Researchers from DTU and the University of Michigan, in conjunction with UN Environment, have studied this important question, analyzed data on chemical functions and quantities found in plastic toys, and quantified the exposure of children and children. possible health risks. They ranked chemicals according to their health risk and compared these results with lists of priority substances existing around the world. The study has been published with open access in the journal  Environment International .

«Of the 419 chemicals found in hard, soft and foam plastic materials used in children’s toys, we identified 126 substances that can be potentially harmful to children’s health, either through carcinogenic or non-carcinogenic effects, including 31 plasticizers, 18 flame retardants and 8 fragrances. Being harmful in our study means that, for these chemicals, the estimated exposure doses exceed the regulatory reference doses (RfD) or the cancer risks exceed the regulatory risk thresholds (all substances in the ‘red zone’ of the lower figure). Priority must be given to eliminating these substances in toy materials and replacing them with safer and more sustainable alternatives, ”says Peter Fantke,

Nicolò Aurisano, first author of the study and Peter’s doctoral student, explains that toy manufacturers usually do not provide any information on their chemical content and that databases on their composition are lacking. As a result, the researchers had to collect and analyze information on the content of chemicals in toy materials from specific toy chemical test data collected in 25 different peer-reviewed studies.

Nicolò further states: ‘We have combined the reported chemical content in the materials of the toys with the characteristics of the materials and the patterns of use of the toys, such as how long a child usually plays with a toy, if it is brought to school. mouth and how many toys are in a household per child. We use this information to estimate exposure using high-throughput mass balance models, and we compare exposure doses with doses below which there is no unacceptable risk to children. ‘

The researchers found that children in Western countries have an average of about 18 kilograms of plastic toys, highlighting the large amounts of plastic that children are surrounded by on a daily basis.

Hazard in Toys

Among the chemicals that the researchers identified as possibly of concern to children’s health were, for example, the widely known phthalates and brominated flame retardants, but also the two plasticizers TXIB butyrate and ATBC citrate, which are used as alternatives to some regulated phthalates.

‘These alternatives showed signs of a high potential for non-cancer risk in exposed children and should be further evaluated to avoid’ regrettable substitutions’, in which a harmful chemical is substituted for an equally harmful alternative. In general, soft plastics cause increased exposure to certain harmful chemicals, and inhalation exposure dominates overall children’s exposure as children can inhale chemicals that are diffused from all the toys in the room, whereas they normally They only touch one toy at a time, ”explains Peter Fantke.

A path to safe use of chemicals in plastic toys There are many lists that report “chemicals of concern” in product and material applications. However, what is currently lacking is information on the levels at which the use of chemicals in different applications would be safe and sustainable. Here, the researchers introduce a new metric to assess the content of chemicals in toy materials based on exposure and risk.

Peter Fantke explains: “Since the same chemicals can be found in different concentrations in toy materials, we have calculated the ‘Maximum Acceptable Chemical Content’ (MACC) for all substances found in plastic toys. This information will allow decision makers to develop benchmarks for various chemicals in different applications, but will also help toy companies assess the amount of chemicals used for a specific function based on those benchmarks. »

As a parent, it will remain difficult to avoid the use of plastic toys that may contain harmful chemicals, until regulators include all substances and address exposure to toys that are produced outside of Europe and imported into the European market. A good advice from the researchers is therefore to reduce the consumption of plastic materials in general, avoid the use of soft plastic toys and remember to ventilate your children’s rooms well every day.

Dr. Loony Davis5
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Born and raised in Brussels in an English family, I have always lived in a multicultural environment. After several work experiences in marketing and communication, I came to Smart Water Magazine, which I describe as the most exciting challenge of my career.
I am a person with great restlessness and curiosity to learn, discover what I do not know, as well as reinvent myself daily, someone who is curious about life and wants to know. I enjoy sharing knowledge.
This is my personal project but I also collaborate in other blogs, it is the case, the most important web on water currently exists in the US, if you are interested you can read my articles here.

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