Second hand toys could pose a risk to children's health

A new study by the University of Plymouth has revealed that second hand toys could pose a threat to children’s health as they may not meet the most up to date international safety guidelines.

Published in the Environmental Science and Technology, the study has revealed that second hand plastic toys that can be easily chewed by children, like cars, trains, construction products, figures and puzzles, could have high concentrations of hazardous elements including antimony, barium, bromine, cadmium, chromium, lead and selenium - in particular yellow, red or black plastics.

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If a child comes into contact with such toys over an extended period of time, these elements could put the child at risk of chemical contamination.

The research, which analysed 200 used plastic toys found in nurseries, charity shops and homes across South West England, was led by Dr Andrew Turner, Reader in Environmental Science.

He 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 to 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 re-sale of older toys."

Dr Turner and his team used x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry to analyse the presence of elements within individual toys.

He added, “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, mouthable and brightly coloured old plastic toys or components. Without that, the attractive cost, convenience and recyclability of previously used toys has the potential to create a legacy of chemical contamination for younger children.”