Consumer groups seek tougher EU rules on chemicals in toys
Consumer advocates say European policymakers are 'playing' with children's health despite the enactment last year of the Toy Safety Directive, and call for strengthening the chemical requirements for toys.
Recent tests done by national consumer organisations in Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain showed positive results in relation to warnings on toys, mechanical performance and flammability.
Even from the date of its full implementation in July 2013, the directive will still permit the use of many dangerous chemicals, such as carcinogenic, allergenic and hormonal disrupting substances, says the consumer standardisation group ANEC.
Together with the BEUC consumer organisation, ANEC reviewed two years of discussions on the second anniversary of the European Commission subgroup on chemicals in toys. The two consumer organisations conclude that very little progress has been made in protecting children from potentially dangerous chemical substances in toys.
“It has become clear that the significant shortcomings of the directive, such as the lack of adequate provisions to exclude exposure to substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic to reproduction generally, and particularly in toys intended for use by children under 36 months or in mouth-actuated toys, can be solved only by a fundamental revision of the chemical requirements of the directive," said ANEC Secretary-General Stephen Russell.
"Such revision is unavoidable as it is unacceptable that the health of children should be ‘played’ with further."
There are around 80 million children under 14 in the EU and some 2,000 companies employing more than 100,000 people directly in the toys and games sector.
Toys and games are vital tools for childhood development. Whilst manufacturers are responsible for the safety of their products, importers and national authorities all have a role to play in ensuring toys sold in Europe's shops fulfil all safety requirements under EU rules.
For parents who are afraid of buying unsafe toys for their children, ANEC and BEUC recommend buying toys from trustworthy shops and online outlets; reading all warnings and instructions; choosing toys suitable for the child’s age, abilities and skill level; and not buying toys with small detachable parts for children under 3 years of age.
The internal market for toys has contributed to the development of the sector and to consumer protection, by harmonising the safety characteristics of toys across the EU.
The Toy Safety Directive strengthens provisions on enforcement and new safety requirements, ensuring children continue to benefit from the highest levels of protection.
The directive, which took effect in 2011, improved rules for the marketing of toys produced in or imported into the EU, aiming to reduce accidents and achieve long-term health benefits.
Industries of Europe (TIE) fully agrees with consumer groups’ advice to help parents avoid accidents and injuries this Christmas: parents should always buy toys from trustworthy shops and online outlets, carefully read all warnings and instructions, and choose toys that are suitable for the child’s age, abilities and skill level.
Catherine Van Reeth, director general of TIE, said:
"Consumers can be confident that toys sold in Europe have to meet the highest safety standards. Reputable manufacturers are committed to guaranteeing the safety of the toys they produce. However, market surveillance remains important as there are regrettably always rogue traders who pay little attention to safety and put inferior products on the market. The consumer groups are absolutely right when advising parents to only buy toys from reputable shops and online stores."