Above-limit levels of toxic phthalates, the use of which is banned in products for children, were found in some toys sold on the Czech market. This fact was confirmed by chemical analyses of toys and their packaging, carried out by the Institute for Testing and Certification, a.s. in Zlín on request of the Arnika Association, the Environmental Law Service and the Consumers Defence Association. High levels of phthalates, or phthalic acid esters (1) were found in three of five tested products.
“Presence of phthalic acid esters was detected in three cases (samples Nos. 1, 3 and 5) of the five tested samples (2), in the levels ranging from 26.12 % to 43.54 % of the product's weight. In one of the cases, this was a mixture of DEHP and DINP - demonstrably reprotoxic substances, the use of which in children's toys has been banned since January. In the case of two other products, high content of higher phthalic acid esters was found, but closer identification of them was not possible. However, in the case of all these products, there exists a potential risk that children coming into contact with them will get increased exposure of hazardous substances,“ explained the results of the tests Ing. Mirka Jopková from the Arnika Association.
In January this year, a decree came into force banning sale of toys and childcare products with above-limit content of six hazardous phthalates (3). These include also DEHP and DINP, found in the case of one of the tested toys. “In connection with the planned tightening of legislation concerning toys and products for children, we have ordered analysis of five samples of toys made of PVC and packaging for presence of phthalic acid esters, in the end of last year. One of the tested toys (sample No. 5 - inflatable animal bought in Kotva department store) contained 30 % of the banned phthalates. According to the new decree, in force since January 16, this toy should be taken off from the market. However, we made a check and found that this toy continues to be on the market,” stated Mgr. Filip Gregor from the Environmental Law Service.
Although the test ordered by non-governmental organisations was based on random selection of just a few toys, it gave alarming results. The citizens associations warn that presence of banned phthalates in toys and products for children is not an isolated problem.
“During the last three months, the Czech Commercial Inspection informed about several cases (4) of unsatisfactory goods for children, where hazardous phthalates were found. Legal standards were not met by 6 products intended for children,” said Mgr. Ivana Picková from the Consumers Defence Association. “Naturally, the problem of dangerous toys is much broader, as shown by this testing. Nevertheless, the danger of phthalates is even higher because a consumer cannot estimate at all whether they are present in a children's toy or not. This is a difference, for example, in comparison with toys having sharp edges, or, optionally, small parts, where a parent knows that a child could be harmed or it could swallow some part. The more alarming are these findings,” added Picková.
The Arnika Association informed the Inspection on the test results. ”We submitted an instigation to the Czech Commercial Inspection to ban sale of the defective product and to investigate the ones where high phthalate content was found,” said Jopková.
As she says, also other substances found in the tested toys represent a health risk for children's organisms, in addition to phthalates: “The tests showed also presence of other substances use of which is permitted from the point of view of legislation, however, they are, or can be, harmful to health, too. This concerns, for example, 4-nonylphenol, which is an endocrine disruptor. Presence of this substance was found out in three of the five tested products,“ specified Jopková.
Because a consumer himself or herself cannot recognise whether a specific toy contains hazardous substances, it is advisable to avoid objects for children made of PVC. This plastic is questionable for its users just because of the content of a high number of additives which are, however, released from the PVC material during its use and represent a health risk for the users.
The testing of the toys was carried out within the framework of the project „Strengthening of Protection of Consumers' Rights via Legal Capacity Building of Consumers Organisations“ co‑financed from the European Union Transition Facility Programme, administered by the Civil Society Development Foundation.
(1) Phthalates, or phthalic acid esters, represent a group of approximately 40 substances. In PVC, they are used as plasticizers. However, they have been found in use also in cosmetics and as insecticides and adhesives. Because of negative health impacts, use of the most hazardous once was restricted, for example, in production of toys and products for children and in cosmetics. This concerns the following six phthalates: di-isononyl phthalate (DINP), di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP), di-iso-decyl phthalate (DIDP), butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP).
(2) Overview of the analysed samples:
In total, five products made of PVC were tested for the presence of phthalic acid esters, and, in some cases, of 4-nonylphenol. Photographs, including descriptions, information on the manufacturer, country of origin, and place of purchase, are present in the report published today on the internet address: http://bezjedu.arnika.org/downloads/PVC_hracky_2007_1.pdf.
(3) Growing concerns connected with the threat of increased phthalate exposure ended in adoption of the European Union Directive 2005/84 on ban of phthalates in children's toys and articles. In the Czech Republic, a response to the new Directive is Decree No. 284/2006, listing the phthalic acid esters (DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP a DNOP) banned in toys and articles for children. The Decree came into force on January 16, 2007.
(4) Changing table is not safe - Press release of the Czech Commercial Inspection of January 10, 2007 Prams did not meet the safety requirements (duplicate legend) - Press release of the Czech Commercial Inspection of February 2, 2007.