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Tests on Christmas toys revealed serious safety deficiencies

13.12.2012 11.00
Press release

Serious safety deficiencies were detected in the traditional safety tests on Christmas toys. The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) selected 28 toys for testing. Five out of these toys had such serious deficiencies that they will be recalled from shops and consumers. Less serious structural flaw was found in one toy, and a total of 14 toys carried insufficient markings. The requirements were met by half of the tested toys.

Serious deficiencies were found in a laser toy gun, two teddy bear’s garments, a wooden tractor and a plastic toy pig. The power of the laser in the toy gun exceeded the permitted level by over tenfold, in addition to which the kinetic energy in the arrow of the toy was too high for a projectile toy. The steering wheel of the wooden toy tractor intended for children under 3 years of age came loose in the tests, which can cause a risk of asphyxiation. Two garments sold separately for ted dy bears, trousers and football boots, contained excessive levels of harmful phthalates, which are mainly used for softening PVC. Excessive levels of phthalates were also detected in a plastic toy pig, which also had another serious flaw, an eye that came loose, thus causing a risk of asphyxiation for children under 3 years of age.

Phthalates, lasers that are too strong, excessive kinetic energies of arrows, and small detachable parts have also been found in toys in market surveillance in previous years.

– The toys were selected for testing on the basis of their risk, and we also tested their chemical properties in addition to their technical safety. In toys, parts that are easily detached are hazardous because they can cause asphyxiation in young children. Toy laser beams that are too strong can cause damage to eyes. Exposure to phthalates can cause adverse health effects in the longer term. In order to ensure safety, it is important that recommendations for the age limits of toys are followed, Product Safety Engineer Asta Koivisto from the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency points out. 

– The toys contained excessive concentrations of DBP and DEHP phthalates, the use of which in toys is restricted in the European Union due to the risks they pose to children’s health.  Both of these phthalates are classified as toxic for reproduction. Some of the effects that are harmful for reproduction may be due to effects that disturb the body’s hormonal function.  Efforts are made to minimise children’s exposure to these kinds of substances, says Director Esa Nikunen of the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency.

Less serious safety deficiencies were detected in a police play set, in which the suction cup arrows were shorter than permitted by just under 2 mm. Furthermore, seriously insufficient markings were detected in the police play set and a children's tent set both of which were also found to be highly flammable. However, these products did not carry the 'Keep away from fire' label at all or it was not provided in Finnish and Swedish.

The markings in 14 toys were insufficient. Three toys did not have any of the markings required by the Toy Safety Act of Finland. Other typical shortcomings in the markings included insufficient information about the manufacturer and/or importer.

– Insufficient markings must also be taken seriously. Non-attention to markings raises the question whether the toy manufacturer or importer takes other safety issues seriously, either, says Product Safety Engineer Asta Koivisto.
Fourteen of the toys tested by the Finnish Customs Laboratory met all requirements.

Toys that had serious defects have been recalled. Importers (and other operators) shall also correct insufficient markings. Consumers who have purchased a toy with safety deficiencies can return it to the place of purchase and get a refund unless the company can exchange the toy for a corresponding one that meets the safety requirements. A receipt is not necessary for returning the toy. Tukes emphasises that toys found to be hazardous must not be given to children.

The manufacturer is liable for the safety of the toys and for advance safety assurance by testing the toy according to requirements. Moreover, the manufacturer has to make sure that the markings and warnings on the toys are in order before putting them on the market. The toys must also have CE markings.

Importers must make sure that the toys meet the requirements and that they have the necessary markings and warnings in Finnish and Swedish.

All of the toys that were found to have deficiencies in the tests are available on the website where it is also possible to download printable images for the use of the media.

Further information:
Asta Koivisto, Product Safety Engineer (toy safety tests and results), tel. +358 29 5052 187
Esa Nikunen, Director (chemicals), tel. +358 29 5052 107