Loom Band Charms and Scoubidou Strings Bought in Czech Republic Contain Phthalates and Heavy Metals (updated) Featured

3.10.2014 - PRAHA



Phthalates (1) and heavy metals, in particular lead (2), have been found in loom band charms, and in scoubidou strings Wiky. Arnika commissioned detailed analyses for phthalates on the Institute of Chemical Technology (Prague’s university on chemistry). In total, 11 groups of products were analysed that were made of plasticized PVC or showed suspicious smell after opening the packaging of loom bands, and further analyses were commissioned by companies selling goods on internet. Moreover, hundreds of products from standard shops, market halls, as well as internet shops, were subjected to rough tests using an X-ray spectrometer (3) that detects also heavy metals. By these analyses, Arnika checked compliance with the European legislation, according to which children have right for toys without toxic substances. Among other things, the legislation bans use of phthalates, and lays down limits for heavy metal contents.

The harmful products have been added into the database of hazardous products, available on Arnika's internet page http://arnika.org/nebezpecne-vyrobky (in Czech only). A „Loom Bands Guide" is under preparation, and the non-governmental organization will publish it on its internet pages in the next week. Arnika's analyses form part of projects focusing on citizen chemical safety: We Have the Right to Know, and Chemical Substances in Our Life.

„In view of the fact that loom bands are widespread, I am happy that hazardous phthalates were not present in the bands themselves, according to the carried out analyses. However, consumers should be careful when buying charms, sold in sets with the loom bands, as well as separately. People should also avoid the so-called scoubidou strings. The popular loom bands are usually manufactured of silicone or synthetic rubber. Products containing latex may trigger allergic reactions, however, Arnika did not verify its presence, because safe products usually contain 'latex free' marking",says the head of the Toxics and Waste Programme, RNDr. Jindřich Petrlík from Arnika, concerning the analysis circumstances.

Nine loom band charms made of soft PVC contained hazardous phthalate DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate) in amounts exceeding limit value. Nine of them also contained similar amounts of DOIP (dioctyl isophthalate) showing very similar structure and toxicity as DEHP. In seven pendants, measurements using an X-ray spectrometer detected more than 1,000 ppm (parts per million) of lead. The highest lead concentration exceeded 3,500 ppm, and the tests found it in the charms „bee" and „smiley". Concentrations found in charms available on the Czech market did not exceed the limit for the DEHP phthalate concentration up to 500-times, as in the United Kingdom, however, a mixed sample of pendants „starfish" and „moustache" from the importer Importér-Čína.cz (www.imcn.cz) exceeded the limit 419-times (4). The non-governmental organization has already asked the Czech Trade Inspection Authority to examine the harmful products.

„The Czech Trade Inspection Authority does not trifle with the Arnika's information concerning the contents of banned substances in toys, and it has started corresponding activities, namely, it has taken samples, and it has been trying to found out the suppliers or, optionally, importers, through inspections at sellers. Further measures will follow after evaluation of laboratory test results," says the Czech Trade Inspection Authority spokesman, Mgr. Jiří Fröhlich.

After the first reports on potential chemical risks related to the popular „loom bands", Arnika was also contacted by Czech internet shops Cmelicek.cz and Stoklasa.cz that asked Arnika to arrange for chemical analyses of loom bands and charms. Immediately after receipt of the analysis results, the both e-shops started removing the hazardous pendants from the market. The shop Cmelicek.cz also offered its customers that it would buy back already sold goods.

„It is not pleasant information for our shop, however, health of our customers is more important for us. Because of that, we immediately started removing the harmful charms from our e-shop. The charms do not represent such sales volume as loom bands, nevertheless, their amount also is not negligible. We were selling the charms in good faith that documents supplied with them confirmed their chemical safety, however, we commissioned their analysis, in order to be fully sure. Publication of results of chemical analyses, we commissioned through Arnika, we consider transparent and fair," commented the owner of the internet shop Cmelicek, Radek Buchbauer, the current situation.

Analyses for heavy metals presence were carried out by Arnika experts using an X-ray spectrometer, borrowed from the company Hukos. It is a quick and non-destructive measurement method. It enables relatively exact determination of the contents of the individual chemical elements (heavy metals, chlorine, and bromine) in the analyzed sample. By means of the apparatus, it is also possible to determine whether the product is made of PVC. After this preliminary analysis, selected samples were sent to a specialized laboratory of the Institute of Chemical Technology, whose experts determined the amount of phthalates according to the procedure of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. In order to determine phthalates, the product has to be dissolved in a chemical solution (specifically, in tetrahydrofuran). Subsequently, the individual phthalates are determined in the solution using gas chromatography.

Arnika has recently ordered more samples of loom band charms available on Czech market and will analyze them. Also some more internet shops have contacted Arnika - Toxics and Waste Programme and asked for assistance with analyses of potentially harmful loom band charms.

Arnika, since the time of its founding already, has been struggling for protecting the environment and human health against toxic substances, and has been promoting substitution of substances hazardous to humans and other organisms by safer alternatives. It has been also protecting citizens' right to information on hazardous substances in the environment. On Arnika's internet pages, there is also available a regularly updated database of hazardous products http://arnika.org/nebezpecne-vyrobky (in Czech only).

The project „We Have the Right to Know or European Toxics Free Future" was supported by the European Union through the European Commission within the framework of the programme „Actions for Support of Awareness and Discussion on the EU Citizenship and Citizen Rights" in 2013, declared to be the European Year of Citizens. The purpose of the project „We Have the Right to Know" is, on an example of specific citizens’ rights, consumer protection, public health, and right to free access to information, to trigger interest of people in benefits brought to them in these areas by the EU citizenship, and in their possibilities for influencing utilization of these rights. Further projects focusing on consultancy to consumers in the field of chemical substances, that also enabled carrying out these analyses, were supported by the Ministry of Environment, and by the Metropolitan Authority of the Capital City of Prague.

More news about phthalates and/or loom bands:To school without toxic phthalates? It's possible, if you avoid PVC (10-Sep-2014)

Until now, measurements did not identiry any loom band sests with heavy metals contents (02-Sep-2014)


To school without toxic phthalates? It's possible, if you avoid PVC



(1) Phthalates are synthetic chemical substances derived from phthalic acid esters. They are used, in particular, as PVC plasticizers, in relatively high amounts. DEHP, i.e., di (2-etylhexyl) phthalate, was classified as a substance toxic for reproduction, teratogen (harmful for fetus), and substance interfering with the hormone system (so-called endocrine disruptor). In view of the fact that common population is continuously burdened by relatively high amounts of phthalates from many sources, the European Union banned use of the 6 most toxic phthalates, including DEHP, in particular in toys and products for children. DEHP must not be used in cosmetics and in materials for packaging foodstuffs. DEHP blocks male hormones and shows negative effect on development and function of male reproductive organs. Recently published long-term studies of mothers and their children also proved connection between development of asthma and allergies, and behavioral disorders, attention disorders, hyperactivity, and depression, with the instances when the mother was exposed to higher phthalate concentrations during pregnancy. Phthalates enter the body mostly in food. Further, they are absorbed through skin, and inhaled. The second phthalate found by the analyses, relatively little known DOIP (dioctyl isophthalate), is, in its chemical structure, very similar to DEHP, and shows also almost the same toxicity - it is a reproductive toxin, may damage fetus in mother's body, is hazardous to the environment, and is highly toxic for water organisms. Unfortunately, the European legislation does not apply to it, and, thus, its use in toys is not regulated in any way.

(2) Negative lead impacts on health are monitored in the long term. Lead is absorbed, in particular, in lungs, but also in digestive tract (5 - 10 % in adults, up to 53 % in children). Lead may influence hematogenous and nervous systems, kidneys, immune mechanisms, digestive and reproductive systems. In the case of higher doses, lead accumulates in bones, liver, and kidneys. Sustained exposure to low concentrations, especially in the case of children, may result in behavioral disorders, for example, in hyperactivity.

(3) A portable X-ray spectrometer was used for the testing. It uses atomic spectrometry of sub-valence electrons for identification of elements and their concentrations in the analyzed product. It is used for tests of toys and consumer goods, and for determining compliance with directives on contents of hazardous substances in products. The test in non-destructive, does not leave any marks on the measured goods, and may be carried out within few seconds. The spectrometer was borrowed to Arnika by the company HUKOS, Ostrava, for the purpose of the analyses.

Photo gallery of utilization of the X-ray analyzer on Arnika's web pages: http://arnika.org/rentgenovy-analyzator-pro-testy-spotrebniho-zbozi

(4) Results of analyses for presence of phthalates in samples where the hazardous substances were found:



Sample designation



Producer / Importer



DEHP (in %)

DOIP (in %)


elastic band

pendants: Colorful Loombands charms, Canenco B.V.A.

small bag with charms; charm - peace symbol (hippies)

pendant / PVC




elastic band

importer: satkylevne.cz

small bag with charms; charms: 2 of homogenous material, panda and another black-and-white charm

pendant / PVC




DIY colorfull rubber band, Luxury kit set

importer: importer-cina.cz

small bag with charms; (2 of homogenous material, starfish and moustache)

pendant / PVC




three charms - handbag, flower, cat

import: cmelicek.cz

cat and flower

pendant / PVC




three charms - cake, butterfly, heart

import: cmelicek.cz

butterfly and cake

pendant / PVC




DIY colorfull rubber band, Luxury kit set

importer: importer-cina.cz

small bag with charms; (2 of homogenous material, smiley and bee - yellow)

pendant / PVC




scoubidou strings, colourful, plastic

Wiky (importer), country of origin: China, European CE marking

red scoubidou strings

scoubidou strings / PVC



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