Toys are the most-recalled products in Europe. Our scientist Dr Tom Bell asks why more isn’t done to keep children safe.
More than 650 dangerous toys were recalled from sale last year across Europe. Already in 2019 the number stands at more than 60.
Tough laws and British Standards are supposed to protect our children so they can play safely. But they’re in danger from toys sold every day in high street shops and online – everything from hoverboards to soft toys.
Last year we uncovered some truly shocking results when we tested slime, one of the most popular kid’s toys.
⚠️WARNING: Potentially unsafe levels of boron found in some children's slime → https://t.co/JMRyV4rPUe
Exposure to excessive levels of boron in the short term could cause:
And in the long run:
• birth defects
• developmental delays pic.twitter.com/E9kxbXs10F
— Which? (@WhichUK) December 13, 2018
We tested them for what proportion of harmful metals and chemicals they contained, including arsenic, boron and lead. Less than half of those we bought were safe and fit for sale. That’s appalling.
Approach with caution
Some slimes sold in Argos, Hamleys and Smyths contained chemicals up to four times higher than the EU safety limit. Our advice is that all slimes, both homemade recipes and shop-bought slime, need to be approached with caution.
Worse followed when we tested children’s Halloween costumes bought from high street and online stores. We set light to costumes and timed how long it took for the fire to spread.
A Which? investigation has found children's Halloween costumes that failed our flammability testing.
— Which? (@WhichUK) October 31, 2018
This is important as many people tend to have candles out during
Halloween, meaning there’s an increased fire risk. In our tests,
the worst costume burned in just 90 seconds. Several failed the
regulations and should not be on sale.
For the slimes and the costumes, we demanded action from manufacturers, the Office for Product Safety and Standards, and retailers stocking the products.
Thankfully, most of the manufacturers and retailers removed the products from sale immediately. We’ve also shared information and testing results with consumer groups across Europe to ensure that everyone is adequately protected.
Campaigning for toy safety
We first campaigned on toy safety 55 years ago, when we highlighted alarmingly high levels of lead paint in children’s toys.
Sadly, the fight continues. We will test more toys this year, and expect to see industry, the government and retailers act to lower the shocking number of unsafe ones that are on shop shelves.
Where recalls are required, they must be announced and publicised widely to ensure consumers can take action quickly. Our children’s safety depends on it.
This contribution to Which? Conversation first appeared in the March 2019 edition of Which? Magazine (page 15: ‘Inside View’).
Are you surprised to see dangerous toys still on the shelves? Do you agree that retailers should be doing more to protect our children?