/ Home & Energy

Update: Slime safety warning – is this kids’ craze safe?

Dangerous slime may sound like the plot of a cheesy 1950s horror B movie, but if you’ve got a primary school-aged child or grandchild, you may be aware of the craze for toy slime – and its potential dangers.

Update: 13/12/2018

We’ve tested toy slimes for the second time this year, and again we’ve found alarming safety issues.

See the unsafe toy slimes and putties from the 13 we put to the test

We’ve passed our findings on to all the manufacturers with available contact details, and the retailers we bought the products from, asking for the slimes we tested that exceeded boron limits to be removed from sale.

Nikki Stopford, our director of research and publishing, said:

Slime will feature in many kids’ letters to Santa this Christmas, however we’ve found more worrying evidence that children could be put at risk by these toys.

Parents should have confidence that the products that they buy for their children will be safe, but our latest investigation has uncovered harmful products being sold even by big retailers.

Again, we’re calling on manufacturers to stop making unsafe products, and for the government and retailers to step up and do a much better job of ensuring only safe products get into people’s homes and into the hands of children.

What’s wrong with boron? (17/07/2018)

Often available in multi-packs and in a host of lurid colours, you can also make slime yourself at home using household products such as contact lens solution and PVA glue.

However, we’ve carried out testing on 11 brands of toy slime and discovered that eight of them have levels of boron that are above the safety limits permitted by EU standards.

Boron is a chemical element that gives slime its gooey texture. Exposure to excessive levels of boron has been linked to skin irritation, diarrhoea, vomiting and cramps in the short term, and harm to the unborn child of pregnant women in the long term.

It’s why the EU safety standards state that toy slimes should have boron levels that fall below 300mg/kg.

The worst slime we tested had more than four times the permitted level of boron.

Removed from sale

Of the 11 brands we tested that exceeded the safe limits of boron, eight of them were bought from sellers on online retailer Amazon.

Of the three slimes which fell below the EU safety standard, two were bought from high streets shops – Smyths and The Works – and one from Amazon.

When we approached Amazon for comment, it told us:

“All Marketplace sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who don’t will be subject to action including potential removal of their account. The products in question are no longer available”

Are you worried about the safety of these products? And do you think retailers are doing enough to prevent unsafe products from getting onto shelves in the first place? Let us know your thoughts.

Comments

When I saw the press release on these slimes I posted in a very old Convo suggesting that Which? should give safety ratings for products: https://conversation.which.co.uk/parenting/children-baby-products-safety-ratings/#comment-1537465 It’s sometimes difficult to guess whether Which? news and press releases will be accompanied by a new Convo.

Which? has given us the maximum amount of boron allowed in the product but it’s obviously better to have as little as possible of potentially harmful chemicals in products.

Hannah has pointed out that the slimes with boron levels above the permitted maximum have been removed from sale by Amazon. I would like to know what action has been taken against the companies involved – e.g. manufacturer, importer, distributor and retailer. If no action has been taken beyond removing non-compliant products from sale then it may be worth the risk to sell other non-compliant products. Some of us are pushing strongly to reinstate an effective Trading Standards but Which? has given us no indication that this is on the agenda, despite the current campaign to make products safer.

I first put this comment in “Should Which? publish safety ratings for kids’ products?” before this Convo emerged.

I’m not sure why we need a Convo specifically on dangerous slime. It seems to me a Convo describing Amazon’s role in allowing fake, unsafe and dangerous products to be sold to UK consumers would be a far more useful topic to discuss. (e.g 2 pin plugs, Carbon Monoxide monitors, now slime and what else….?)

“Earlier I asked Which? (and not for the first time) why they do not attempt to get Amazon prosecuted for participating in and facilitating the sale of unsafe products. That related to “fake” carbon monoxide monitors.

If these products were illegal in not meeting regulatory requirements then it is totally inadequate to simply have them removed from their shelves. They should be made to take a much more responsible approach to their business and ensure that only safe products were put on sale. Substantial financial penalties should be imposed to make the practice not worthwhile, together with adverse publicity. The same would apply to any distributor.

What other dangerous and harmful products lurk in Amazon’s vast catalogue that we have not uncovered? Why does only Which? seem to find these, and by chance? Trading Standards is the appointed agency to look after products and make sure they meet the regulatory standards. We should be – Which? particularly – lobbying government to deal with this problem.

Why can Which? organise a get-together with 50 MPs to lobby for ATMs, but as far as I know does not think it necessary to lobby to stop the sale of dangerous products from Amazon, and to properly-fund Trading Standards?

Hi both. I’ll attempt to address both your points here. Firstly, Wavechange – I take your point on how sometimes it isn’t clear whether a new convo will emerge in line with our news stories. While we usually will have a convo to discuss our ‘bigger’ news, I’ll have a think to see if there’s any way we could perhaps make it clear.

To its credit, Amazon has removed the slimes that failed our testing off sale. However, it’s clear that these products are getting on the market all too easily, so it’s vital that Amazon ensures these products do not pop back up again. This is an issue across online marketplaces. As you know, we saw a similar problem with dodgy carbon monoxide alarms on widespread sale online just weeks ago.

Given these concerns, online retailing giants need to take some responsibility to ensure that the products that they sell aren’t putting people’s health at risk, and work with the Government and manufacturers to ensure they don’t get into people’s homes.

We have passed on our findings to the Office for Product Safety and Standards, who are responsible for product safety. We think the Government must take a more active role in market surveillance, so that it can identify products on sale that pose a potential safety risk and prevent them from entering people’s homes.

@gmartin, George, thanks for getting back so quickly. I think you have not addressed the point, though. You say “To its credit, Amazon has removed the slimes that failed our testing off sale. “. This is not at all to its credit. It only had to remove what were, presumably, illegal products because Amazon were found out.Just like it was forced to remove CO alarms. How many more illegal products are they selling that you, and others, do not discover?

It would have been to Which?’s credit if they had tried to instigate legal proceedings against Amazon for knowingly or negligently participating in the sale of unsafe, dangerous or non-compliant products. Why does Which? not campaign for this? It seems quite willing to campaign on areas that do not affect safety – and that of children in this case. Are thye afraid of Amazon, or of losing income from them?

“We think the Government must take a more active role in market surveillance“. Some of us have been trying to get Which? to campaign for this for a long time. One of Trading Standards’ roles is exactly that – market surveillance. Decimated by lack of funding. If you want proper consumer protection, lobby the government and run campaigns to put this right. Perhaps a few Convos and rally your supporters. I wouldn’t mind Convos being overwhelmed with a worthwhile cause of that nature.

I had forgotten about the Office for Product Safety and Standards.

George – Thanks George. I do appreciate that Which? is working with OPSS and that safety has featured in numerous Convos and the magazine. Which? has been involved in so many safety issues over the years. Seat belts and lead in paint come to mind.

Goods sold with the wrong plug are potentially dangerous, depending on how the user decides to deal with the problem. I’m very disappointed that Which? raised this relatively simple issue and has not achieved any real progress other than to obtain assurances from a company that should take responsibility for its Marketplace traders and sometimes its own actions. Has Which? ever taken up the issue with Trading Standards?

I suspect you are not alone, John.

No sign of a proper recall system yet, and no sign of Which? being invited (or maybe they did not take up an invitation) to contribute to the development of the BSI product recall document. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-guide-to-improve-consumer-product-safety-recalls–2

This document, PAS7100, at a quick glance looks pretty comprehensive. It deals with non-food products and, in part 1, the producers and distributors guidance and, in part 2, the part played by the Regulators.

Part 1 includes developing a Product Safety Incident Plan as the basis for dealing with recalls, for example and includes a requirement for Customer Traceability (subject to customer consent – which to me seems a weakness; it should be compulsory).

It requires distributors to act with “due care……not to expose or possess for supply a product which he….should have presumed….is a dangerous product”. So supplying 2 pin plugs, fake CO alarms from dubious sources, dangerous children’s slime with no checks for safety, seem to be an indictment against Amazon.

Local Authorities “have a duty to enforce product safety regulations in their area”. (Normally through Trading Standards I believe.)

All good stuff but…….the document is for guidance and recommendations only. Unless it is made mandatory, with penalties for infringement, the good guys will observe it and the bad guys will carry on as usual.

@wavechange @malcolm-r Hi both, I hope you’re well. As you know I’ve been doing my best to get answers to your queries recently. Malcolm, I believe you’ll also have this sent to you by email from a colleague, but I wanted to post it here in public as well:

Where we find products on sale that are potentially unsafe, we engage with retailers to ask them to ensure that these are withdrawn from sale and that processes are put in place to ensure unsafe products aren’t sold in future.

We understand there could be wider issues with how products are sold by online retailers and are looking at the role that Trading Standards can play within the product safety system to deal with this. We have submitted our findings to the Office for Product Safety and Standards and are calling for more to be done by the Government to proactively identify potentially unsafe products and stop them from reaching people’s homes.

I do hope that helps.

Thanks very much, George. It is very encouraging that Which? is investigating the role of Trading Standards in relation to the new OPSS. A major concern shared by some of us is that Trading Standards is so underfunded that consumers are no longer being helped over safety issues or dishonest traders. I have experience of both of these problems.

In the days when most purchases were made from shops or dealt with local services, dealing with our local Trading Standards office made sense but now that we are buying online and dealing with national and international companies, perhaps it would make sense to deal with a single office over problems with a particular company. I contacted National Trading Standards earlier this year and discovered that it is in fact a company that deals only with other companies, which is confusing considering the choice of name.

I do hope that the Which? campaign for safer products goes down in history as one of its most important campaigns.

@gmartin, Thanks for your help George. The primary authority responsible for Amazon is Herts CC Trading Standards but they show no interest. I hope Which? keep a very close eye on Amazon products.

Whilst asking them to remove products that are unsafe, illegal, or harmful when they are discovered is OK, but I am concerned that there will be many more dodgy products that Which? do not uncover. The only way, I’d suggest, to wake Amazon up to their responsibilities, legal or moral, is to publicise all their failures and hopefully have them prosecuted.

This heat does wonders for intolerance….. 🙂

DerekP says:
27 July 2018

As we’ve seen , it is possible to make nice slime (if that’s not an oxymoron?) without needing any borax or boric acid.

That said, safely diluted quantities of those reactants, e.g. as in eyewash ought not to pose major health risks.

The quoted EU safety limit of 300mg/kg (or 300 ppm or 0.03 wt%) is definitely a non-trivial amount. I reckon Pyrex glass must contain about 100 times that much (i.e. about 3wt%) but that the boron should be safely bound to the chemical structure of the glass.

The two things that concern me are that manufacturers have failed to comply with legislation and that in the hands of young children the slime might land up inside them. I’m not sure why children were designed to test products by tasting and eating them.

Maybe Pyrex could be advertised as the borosilicate-free glass.

It is the distributors who have failed to comply with regulatory requirements, where they exist. Their responsibility is to ensure that what they sell meets regulatory requirements. Buying products from dodgy manufacturers who do not intend to comply with regulatory requirements and selling them, or facilitating their sale, is down to their incompetence, negligence or complicity. It is also illegal.

DerekP says:
27 July 2018

From what I’ve seen of the slime making scene, the biggest potential risk would be from households buying bulk quantities of chemicals like borax and boric acid, then not handling them safely.

I don’t doubt that, Derek. Many household products are potentially dangerous and anyone with children should take responsibility for the safety of children. I never quite understood why anyone thought that putting sodium hydroxide (aka caustic soda) in aerosol cans was a good idea. It turns skin rather slimy as it degrades the proteins. There are safer ways of cleaning ovens even using the same chemical.

It’s one thing retailers being persuaded to withdraw unsafe goods from sale, but what about those already sold and in use? One of the major advantages of on-line selling is that is so easy to notify purchasers of a sub-standard or unsafe product since all the purchasers’ e-mail addresses have been captured. They are routinely used for marketing purposes [as in “people who bought this also bought one of these”] so there can be no excuse for not sending safety advice to purchasers or even offering a complete refund on return of the product as redress for the retailer selling dodgy goods in the first place.

I would like to make a Freedom of Information request to Amazon about how they handle safety matters, having tried and failed to get an obviously dangerous product removed from sale two years after spotting it. Commercial organisations are exempted from requirements to deal with these requests. Of course it would be easy, John, but there needs to be the will. I suspect that GDPR might now be offered as a reason for inaction.

Wavechange I hope you make better progress than US citizens using the US version of the FOIA as they were blocked by alternate legislation . As I keep saying Amazon are more than just a US conglomerate , they practically run parts of countries not just commercially but Amazon are well into the world military, spying , and a whole lot more in influencing regimes and countries to do their bidding and —quote- Donald backs them to the hilt. Read this US citizens attempt and why I think you will be very lucky to get Amazon to do as you say. Too big to fall/fail is an apt expression as regards them . https://www.loudountimes.com/business/open-government-advocates-file-foia-requests-for-information-on-amazon/article_2bfbb016-32dc-11e8-a3ac-5752c3c9b2b1.html I got a 451 on an ordinary browser ( barred because I live in Europe ) but I used “other means ” to get through ,the title is -Open government advocates file FOIA requests for information on Amazon,s HQ2- March 28-2018

If Amazon support the new Code of Practice PAS 7100:2018 dealing with product recalls then they could do exactly what John says – but I assume the purchaser would need to have given permission to be contacted under those circumstances.

However good a recall system is, it is the irresponsibility of those who deal with unreliable sources and do not check the provenance of the goods they sell that should be tackled and penalised.

I don’t recall having given express permission to Amazon to pester me with marketing e-mails every day – it must be in the T&C’s that I have never read and become part of the contract the moment you order something from them. The same could be the case for safety notifications. Obviously, if they told me that the thing with the two-pin plug that I bought was a potentially dangerous product and an illegal sale they would be putting their hands up to a criminal offence, so it’s not going to happen.

I would not go so far as to say that Amazon does not know the law but it has allowed its market place to act as a surrogate and thus dodge any bullets. Even if we cannot prosecute Amazon [although I don’t accept that] we could prosecute the traders who shelter under its umbrella..

A lot of those traders on marketplace John hide under a lot of digital “clouds ” finding out where they really live is not easy John . When Amazon bars one he set up again under a different identity .

That might be so, Duncan, but I do not think that absolves Amazon from liability. They must carry out due diligence before allowing a trader to use their platform. I have rarely bought anything from an Amazon market place trader but in all cases I have checked the provenance and made sure it had a bricks-&-mortar UK presence and was using Amazon for access to a wider market. Streetview on Google Maps can be a useful and interesting tool to see what goes on at the given address.

According to an American government website Boron even in small quantities is extremely harmful to plants if the ratio is = 1-2mg/L below that its okay . By the way I have been condemned for saying Which stretches into the USA and is gathering worldwide attention ,some dont believe me, well this US website in TODAY’S comment is on —thats right BORON quoting “UK based charity ” WHICH even Newsweek is commenting on it. Worst was Toysmith Jupiter Juice -FOUR TIMES the limit , next CCINEE Pink Fluffy Slime 1000mg/kg etc all could be purchased on Amazon . No comment by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission https://www.newsweek.com/boron-slime-toys-unsafe-levels-chemical-linked-vomiting-fertility-problems-1027593 now do you believe me Which is Internationally recognised ?? Think about what country has the biggest consumer market and the main one that counts in the western world ? the USA.

It is what Which? achieves in the UK that interests me.

Ah malcolm but its about -Information Retrieval as in Brazil-the Movie . The USA is more informationally open than the UK and you get more information provided enabling you to reach a decision quicker.

I’m not clear what you mean, duncan. How does this help Which? and its members?

It’s possible to make your own slime without boron and that might not be a bad idea for the commercial versions since we do not yet understand the physiological role of boron. What happens in the UK often follows what happens in the US.

A lot of people in other countries read the BBC news website. Which?’s press releases often get featured there and then they are picked up by other media throughout the world.

Of course Which? is internationally recognised – it always has been. It was the first and for a long time the only dedicated professional consumer product testing, comparison and investigating organisation with a well-regarded magazine that ended up in virtually every library including in universities around the globe. That is why it is so important to develop and maintain its high standards.

As far as the USA is concerned products made for the UK domestic market are probably of little interest but Which?’s research and investigations into other societal, health, travel, technology and car issues are no doubt relevant from time to time. Most aspects of life in the USA are completely different to UK and European experience and trying to run US editions would not be the best use of resources. It’s complicated enough in the United Kingdom with different laws and procedures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that have to be taken into account.

The North American consumer market probably is the biggest in the western world but a lot of it does not translate easily to European conditions. Nevertheless, Americans are fascinated by our way of life so they try to keep up.

By easily providing open information to the American public that is not easily accessible on British websites , either in obscure government reports or having to pay for the information . It usually the case in repressive countries but using the word “terrorists”/not in the public’s interest to cover up everything and anything is the mark of a government wanting full control of its population by denial of knowledge. The US has an Act on that limiting it, this countries government can cover up as much as it wants . I have already posted that a FOI request was “knocked back ” here in the UK on Brexit . I have always said this country runs on WW2 secrecy . Germany and France are going to produce a new fighter jet leaving out this country , yet I have to go onto international news websites to find Britain is ” AT LAST ” going to produce its own military jet using a British company RR for its engines and its frame will be built here too . It sickens me that the government has to be pushed into a corner before it even thinks of building its own military equipment in its own country.

Are you saying Which? gets information from the USA because it is more freely available?
I presume this is the secret UK fighter https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/16/uk-tempest-fighter-jet-typhoon-farnborough-airshow

I don’t spend any time at all looking at American websites but I do look for information on UK websites and I have never encountered the problems you seem to Duncan. The amount of freely available information is amazing, although I accept that it might not suit your agenda to see that.

When it comes to national security I believe the government is entitled to have restrictions, as all governments do. Reading the article in Malcolm’s link it certainly does not look as though the government had to be “pushed into a corner” before building its own military equipment. The new aircraft carriers and other warships are built in the UK and most of the Army’s materiel is manufactured in the UK. The new fighter plane has been under development for some time. The Tempest is a successor to the Tornado which was also partly built in the UK in partnership with Germany and Italy. I believe cooperation with our allies in aircraft production is a good thing even if only to ensure compatibility in action, but if the UK decides to build its own plane independently it’s not surprising that France and Germany have to exclude the UK from their development.

This has nothing to do with Boron in Slime products and I don’t know why so many Conversations get diverted into completely irrelevant side issues which then require commentary to clarify them and help readers understand them.

DerekP says:
18 July 2018

As we can already see on this page, many of these digressions are started by individuals “hijacking” topics, in order to comment on their pet subjects. When those subjects have greater general interest than the often bizarre page topics, this is no bad thing, but we do now have The Lobby as an alternative venue for such discussions.

Agenda has nothing to do with it John obtaining any sort of relevant info in this country is extremely hard compared with the more open USA , they have built in laws enacted when they won the war of independence from Britain that allow freedom of information and speech . It may be repressed physically now with police batons but in other regards I can get info hidden from the British public because –“its not in the public’s interest ” . This country is running on a “need to know ” basis and while the elite and privileged can maybe access more information Joe Public gets censored media info. I gave up long ago trying to get real info here I now stick to getting it and more than the British public are told from abroad , even the organisation of UK journalists have complained about “censorship UK ” . Editors told dont write that by “royal decree ” of HMG . How this country has the gall to complain about other countries I do not know .

I suppose it depends on where you start and where you look. If you always start with an American website you will probably find what you are looking for and not bother with any other searches.

The notion that the US keeps nothing secret is patently unsustainable as is the notion that the UK keeps everything covered up and only made available on a need-to-know basis. The internet, and the perspicacity of the British citizen [including yourself], means that if anything is available elsewhere it soon finds its way into the UK so there is no point in the UK government being devious and concealing things. As for the government telling the media not to publish things, that wouldn’t hold up for a minute with a competitive press and numerous foreign broadcasters readily accessible on any TV set.

I think it must be many years since the last ‘D’ Notice was issued restricting what could be published in the UK – and for good reason: it wouldn’t work. Unlike various totalitarian regimes the UK is not governed by decree. I don’t think Rupert Murdoch, or Alexander Lebedev, or the Barclay Twins, are going to be worried by attempted government interference in their newspapers – they are more focussed on avoiding commercial conflicts of interest. I knew we could get Slime back on the agenda eventually.

DerekP says:
17 July 2018

Just to annotate the above article, I know some kids who have recently been “slime crazy” and who have enjoyed making loads of their own slide. For them, the preferred source of boron is a well known eye wash liquid. I’m not saying that some contact lens cleaning solutions wouldn’t also work, but this eyewash certainly does.

I did express surprise and some concern when I learnt that boric acid was a key ingredient. However, if the quantities involved are safe to use in an eyewash of all things, then there’s probably no great risk to our young slime makers. In time, I hoping they might also develop a wider interest in other aspects of chemistry, but we’ll have to see.

You dont have cuts in your eye when you use boron eyewash’s —-do you Derek ? , for example , after ALL eye operations involving cuts made into the eye itself which I and 1000,s of others got when we had IOL lens replacements . other eye problems also require operations . If you have a burst blood vessel in the eye an operation CANNOT be performed until its healed . not only do I know that from hospital staff a neighbour was refused a cataract operation for the very same thing . After an operation like that you are given TWO types of eye drops which you MUST take –Wavechange – Chloramphenicol to stop infection – 4x/daily for 5 days and Maxidex- 4x/daily reducing in the FOURTH week to 1x/day . Why ? to heal the eye . Boron is toxic to open wounds see https://www.drugs.com/npp/boron.html . I hope you are looking after your own eyes ?

DerekP says:
17 July 2018

Duncan,that’s all very interesting but is somewhat of a digression here.

For the record I don’t use any kind of eyewash at all ever. I’m also well aware of the toxicity of boron, not least if it is in the form of boric acid. In other forms, including as used to make grinding wheels, it may not be so hazardous.

I expect that commonly sold eye washes should be safe if used in accordance with instructions. If not, they shouldn’t be available for sale.

Within the context here, if kids are taking small quantities of eye wash and then further diluting that with all the other ingredients used for slime making, then I’m inclined to think that any safety risks will be quite small.

Its not a digression to me Derek not when it involves your eyes and to make light of eyewash containing boron which could be applied , in ignorance, if you have sustained damage to your eye isn’t the right thing to advise the public medically. I take eye problems VERY seriously, blindness can be forever.

I don’t know much about these slime products but a quick look at information online suggests that the key ingredients are polyvinyl alcohol with a fairly high relative molecular mass (long polymer chains), water and sodium tetraborate, possibly with additional compounds to optimise the pH (acidity). The slime is a hydrogel. I assume that the risk is ingestion of the boron-containing slime, because kids put anything in their mouth.

Duncan – Chloramphenicol is an antibiotic that is widely used in eye ointments and eyewashes, though it is rather too toxic for general oral use. From your reference and other sources, application of boron compounds to open wounds or prolonged contact with intact mucous membranes in the eye will increase absorption of boron and is best avoided.

Thats why its only for 5 days Wavechange but thanks for the additional info . It must be kept refrigerated, about 5 % to 8 % of cases involve severe eye infection requiring Immediate attention , so much so that a direct telephone number to the operating staff in the hospital is given so that they can swiftly be taken back into theater and attended by professionals .

Safe boron-free slime can be made from water, cornflour, water and food colouring: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRrREeXzNmw

As our slime-maker says cornflour in water is an example of a (dilatant) non-Newtonian fluid.

If its a similar product, mrs r used to make playdough using, I think, salt and flour, for our children.They never ate it (as far as I know….)

When teaching I used cornflour and water and non-drip paint as everyday examples of fluids that undergo shear-thickening and shear-thinning, respectively. Cornflour is much better than ordinary flour for a demonstration though I cannot remember the reason.

I suppose that the only risk of DIY slime is that it will quickly become contaminated with bugs after handling and should be discarded after use. Commercial slime will probably contain antibacterial chemicals.

DerekP says:
17 July 2018

My friends’ kids have also tried the cornflour based slime recipe. They find that it makes rather poor slime relative to the PVA glue based ones. And, if you leave it around long enough, the cornflour based slime goes mouldy.

There are edible slime recipes too. So far, I’ve not encountered any kids stupid enough (or hungry enough) to want to try eating the non-edible kinds.

The reason that PVA glue does not go mouldy is that it contains anti-microbial compounds (biocides) – possibly nastier ones than used in commercial slimes that are expected to be in contact with skin and could be eaten. As I’m sure you know, manufacturers are required to make safety data sheets available and these should give an insight into what potentially harmful chemicals they contain.

I presume the grinding wheels you mentioned are boron nitride ones.

DerekP says:
17 July 2018

wavechange, I was thinking of boron carbide grinding wheels, but I guess other boron based grinding ceramics are available.

Most of the PVA glue used for home slime making is craft glue from craft shops. Unlike industrial glues, it tends not to come with reams of COSH assessments and product safety data sheets. Having just looked at a couple of those from the net, one of them said: “Long term experience of this product type indicates no danger to health when properly handled under industrial conditions.”

I didn’t see any mention of biocides in those sheets, but I’m not a COSH assessor, so I wouldn’t take that as either confirmation or repudiation.

Thanks Derek. As far as I know, PVA adhesive is an aquatic emulsion containing a significant amount of water. Without some form of biocide it could become contaminated with bugs in storage, and in damp conditions joints could be weakened through microbial growth, as with traditional carpenters’ glue.

As you say there could be a difference between industrial glues and those sold for craft and general household purposes. Having looked at safety data sheets for household PVA adhesives I agree that there is no mention of potentially harmful additives, but I would be happier if all chemicals were listed.

I have just introduced myself to the wonders of cubic boron nitride, which seems pretty impressive.

“School “PVA glue is not recommended for false eyelash attachment as it causes eye irritation . Hobbycraft , for example dont recommend their “school glue ” for this use.

DerekP says:
18 July 2018

Duncan – that sort of issue is warned about on the Material Safety Data Sheets. Given the current commendable appreciation of Health & Safety by UK schools, I’m sure those matters are not neglected in class.

From my practical experiences so far, I’d say the most dangerous home made slimes are actually the edible ones. These generally require a heat source, for a example a microwave oven, to melt marshmallows or gummy bears or such like.

Given the temperatures required, actual direct harm, in the form of minor burns, is a realistic possibility. Hence appropriate parental supervision is advisable.

Derek how often does Ms Public look up -Material Data Sheets ? that you can isn’t the point thats why we are here to give information that the public isn’t presented with in the advertising media.

Material safety data sheets are probably not intended for the general public, though they can often be found on websites or can be requested.

MSDS for single chemicals for single chemicals are extremely useful and provide information including the nature of hazards, action to be taken if in contact with the skin or if swallowed, protection needed when handling, appropriate action in the event of spillage, and so on. On the other hand, MSDS for commercial products typically don’t identify the chemicals present unless they are known to be harmful. I could not find MSDS for the slimes identified by Which? as having a high boron content and although MSDS for other slimes are available online I did not found one that listed sodium tetraborate – which is likely to be the questionable ingredient.

I would expect that the slime toys are provided with instructions for safe use and advice warning against misuse, such as putting it in your mouth, eating it, heating it. There should also be instructions on possible problems as outlined in Hannah’s introduction and disposal information.

With any product it is sensible to read the instructions provided. If the product meets safety regulations – it is illegal to be put on the market otherwise – there should be no need to go into greater detail.

If I was buying a slime toy I would want to know if it contained sodium tetraborate and how much. Even if products do meet the current requirements it would be sensible to choose one with a low content of potentially harmful chemicals.

Denying the public potentially useful information is inexcusable, I often see tankers bearing the code 3YE 1203 code and the graphic and label for a flammable liquid. In the event of a road accident it might be helpful if the public was aware of what was in the tank.

I am content not to know what is in the tank so long as the emergency services are aware and have the resources to deal with it. Fire appliances have an on-line database showing all hazards and the safe means of neutralising them. The affected vehicle should also be carrying an ADR kit [Agreement for the carriage of Dangerous goods by Road] with detailed instructions. The graphic usually indicates whether something is explosive, corrosive, poisonous, flammable, etc and it is best to get out of range. The public should never tackle such incidents so there is no need to provide additional information in my opinion.

The example I gave would be seen on a petrol tanker and I think it’s useful for the public to be aware of this or that the load is caustic or an acid. As a member of the public you might want to do first aid. I’m not suggesting that anyone should deliberately put themselves in danger and first aid training makes that clear. Thankfully some dangerous loads are identified.

Under the Hazchem protocol I thought all hazardous chemical loads should identified and the easily recognised graphic symbols illustrate the kind of hazard. Many vehicles also have a legend in words. The other codes on the panels indicate the kind of material that it is and how it should be dealt with; for example, as you know, there are various different ways of extinguishing a fire and the correct method is essential to prevent contingent danger. My view is that only the experts need to be aware of this and everyone else should keep clear. Life saving and first aid opportunities will depend on the circumstances and only trained people should attempt it. Luckily, collisions involving hazardous loads are quite rare and even when they do happen the design of modern vehicles and tanks means there is less likelihood of fire or explosion, but leakage or spillages do occur from time to time. Getting the emergency services on location without delay is paramount.

I agree John. Any amateur can do what they can to help, but need to use common sense. You can use your mobile phone to find what the symbol means; whether that helps you deal with a situation is questionable. the emergency services will advise you an actions you can. or should not, take until they arrive.

I’m not disagreeing with your good advice, John, but some of us do have an understanding of chemicals and might have to deal with a casualty until help arrives and I would like to know if they are contaminated with boric acid or borax, for example. Having the name of the chemical and the code means that they can be checked, rather like confirmation of payee in the case of money transfer. People are better at remembering words than code numbers.

As I said above, you can use your mobile phone to ask the emergency services, when you phone them, about the HazChem code or look it up directly. They will also advise you, based partly on your knowledge, of what it might be safe for you to attempt, and what you should avoid.

The last time I called the emergency services (over a different issue) the signal was poor and I kept being cut off so I had to use my initiative. After taking appropriate action I managed to make contact.

The emergency services usually get to incidents within a very short time. I would say that most situations can be left until they arrive. The purpose of the Hazchem warnings is to protect the general public as well as to inform the specialists. It might sound harsh, but people should not endanger themselves or draw others into an incident out of a misplaced anxiety to do something. Better to keep clear, move extraneous people and vehicles out of the zone, and assist access for the emergency services. Only witnesses should remain at the scene. That was my training and I am fairly sure it would kick in in the unfortunate event of personal experience of a Hazchem incident.

I know all that, John, but everything does not happen immediately which is why people are trained to do first aid. All I’m asking for is all tankers to show their contents in words as well as codes and I’ve given a couple of reasons for doing this. The emergency services were thankful for me handling the situation when I had to deal with a medical emergency involving a member of the public a couple of years ago.

I assumed I would find details of the recalled slimes on the Trading Standards website but nothing has appeared: https://www.tradingstandards.uk/consumers/product-recalls.

Some companies do show details of recalled products on their websites, though few provide a link from the homepage. Amazon does not have any information about recalled slime toys or anything else.

Here is information about another dodgy product removed from the Amazon website this year: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-42830755

This shows that the loons that run Amazon will sell any old product in their eagerness to leave no crevice or corner of the market unexploited. It saddens me that so many otherwise conscientious people continue to do business with them. I have friends who think Prime is the best thing that ever happened now that all their favourite shops have gone. I despair.

This page on product recalls says it all, John: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201890140

Nothing related to any products that Amazon has sold and none of the links work. 🙁

Wavechange-They dont work because in one case – server IP address not found , others have multiple “handshake ” errors .

Yes. Any competent organisation should check that links are functional and remain so.

“Was this information helpful? Yes or No
No gives:
Please select what best describes the information:
– This information is confusing or wrong
– This isn’t the information I was looking for
– I don’t like this policy”

No invitation to explain why the information is not helpful.

I believe it is not for Which? to ask Amazon to remove products from sale but to send their findings to Trading Standards and have them take action; they are the appointed regulatory body and have the powers of prosecution, which I believe are what are needed.

I accept that speed is essential to protect customers, but TS should act quickly in such cases. If we keep letting Amazon off the hook we’ll simply see repetitive failure to police the products they sell.

I have already asked if TS has been contacted over this matter. See below.

No problem. But I was suggesting Trading Standards should take the initiative. I’ve asked this about Amazon on a number of occasions but Which? choose not to respond.

I have sent brief details of the problem to Hertfordshire Trading Standards who are the body supposedly dealing with Amazon. They tell me to refer it to my local one (not Herts) who, regrettably, direct me to Citizens Advice. I have sent the details to CA but don’t hold my breath. I hope I’m proven wrong but it is an awful way to deal with consumers.

Here is an article about the hazards of borax (sodium tetraborate) published more than a year ago: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/may/01/global-slime-craze-sparks-safety-warnings-after-borax-blamed-for-burns

DerekP says:
18 July 2018

Thanks for that. If folk are seeking to save money on their home slime production and want to do that by buying bulk packs of borax, where do you suppose they are likely to be shopping?

I’ve never bought borax but it used to be sold alongside laundry detergents and might already be in the cupboard under the sink. I used to use borax for silver soldering before the rods came with a flux coating.

I would encourage older children to learn how to handle potentially harmful chemicals in a safe way. When I was a young teenager I remember buying large blue crystals of copper sulphate and other chemicals from Boots the Pharmacist. On the other hand, young kids will not appreciate the risks and put anything in their mouth, even green slime.

@oscarwebb Hi Oscar – It’s good that Which? has managed to have these dodgy slime toys removed from sale, but this is not the first time that Amazon or their Marketplace traders have been found selling potentially dangerous products. Please could you find out if Trading Standards have been notified and if there is any intention that these products are to be recalled. Thanks.

Let me find out for you 🙂

Thanks Oscar.

@wavechange I’m sorry for the delay in getting a reply. I’ll find some information and get back to you.

Thanks Elena. Some of us are very interested in how Which? works with Trading Standards and other organisations that can help deal with problems.

​I have an update for you @wavechange.

We notified several Trading Standards and we also submitted our findings to the Office for Product Safety and Standards – we asked them to look into this.

Products aren’t being recalled as of yet, but if you have purchased a slime, you can return it as a faulty product.

@wavechange We engage with Trading Standards on issues where they can help, and other organisations where their help is required. For Product Safety issues, we make submissions to the Office for Product Safety and Standards and ask that they look to resolve issues.

Elena, I understand Hertfordshire CC Trading Standards are the primary authority for Amazon. In view of the continuing unsafe issues Amazon are a party to – 2 pin plugs, CO alarms, fire alarms, slime and others we no doubt have not uncovered – do you think they should be dealing with Amazon and imposing penalties for their lack of due diligence in protecting the consumer?

Hi Elena – Thanks for finding out.

My concern is that potentially dangerous products are discovered but those who purchase them never get to know. A few responsible retailers put notices in their stores and a link from the homepage of their website – for example B&Q links to this page: https://www.diy.com/customer-support/product-information/product-recall#icamp=footer_recalls However, I doubt that many see this information.

It is great that Which? had managed to remove toy slimes before we read this Convo, but I’m not aware that Amazon has contacted any purchasers even though they have their contact details. Patrick Steen obtained assurances that Amazon would replace or refund products fitted with the wrong plug but the danger is that many would find their own solution and sometimes this could risk fire or electrocution.

One of the fastest ways of informing a substantial part of the population about potentially harmful products would be social media, an obvious benefit being that information can readily be passed on and hopefully relayed to those who don’t use social media.

Perhaps toy slime is not the best example of a potentially hazardous product but at present we have no way of reliably informing consumers of them.

Some time ago I reported an obviously dangerous product that I had seen on the Amazon website and Amazon took no action. Because I had not actually bought the product, Citizens Advice said that it is very difficult to take action, and I believe that.

I am very glad that Which? is focusing on product safety at present. We seem to have no other way of expressing our concerns about decline in effectiveness of Trading Standards, presumably as a result of underfunding.

Sorry for going on, Elena, but this is a subject that has concerned me for years.

Please don’t apologise for such a thoughtful post! We are also very concerned that not enough is being done by retailers, both on and offline. To help spread awareness of the issues when we find them, we are using our social media – and those of people who support Which? by amplifying our messages to their many followers – in hopes of spreading these important messages far and wide to consumers.

We do believe that more must be done by retailers and the Government to proactively identify potentially unsafe products and stop them from reaching people’s homes and have submitted our findings on issues we’ve found to the Office for Product Safety and Standards. We’d love to work with them on what measures they can take to protect consumers!

Retailers like Amazon appear oblivious to this responsibility. Distributors are responsible for ensuring the credentials of the suppliers they use meet our requirements, including checking the validity of CE documentation. Penalising those who do not, both financially and by publicity, seems the only way to deal with delinquent distributors/retailers.

The government nominates Trading Standards to act on their behalf to ensure regulatory requirements are met. This requires policing to uncover non-compliant products, and that requires expertise and resources. These have been greatly reduced by the government.

I’d suggest Which? should campaign to restore a properly-resourced Trading Standards and ensure prosecutions are made, and penalties imposed, when a retailer or distributor transgresses, whether deliberately or through lack of due diligence. We need the consumer protected.

Elena – If I may go off topic, here is an example of a dangerous product that has been on sale on the Amazon website for more than two years: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Metre-Kettle-Mains-Power-Cable/dp/B01GG2P64U/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_pl_foot_top?ie=UTF8

What makes it dangerous is the partial sleeving on the Earth pin. This sleeving means that in the event of a fault a connected product could cause electrocution. One of the reviewers has pointed out that the product is a fake and failed a safety test. Other reviewers are happy with the product, no doubt unaware of the problem. 🙁

I have reported the product as unsafe to Amazon, yet it is still on sale. Had I bought the product then I could report it to Trading Standards but I have not made a purchase. I have posted correspondence on the main two-pin plugs Convo. Lauren did manage to get another dangerous product removed from the Amazon website after I posted about it.

I would like to know how a citizen of this country can have a potentially dangerous product removed from sale without having bought it, if it is confirmed that a problem exists.

Some of us would like the opportunity to work with Which? to pursue specific problems.

I see no reason to have to purchase a product that is dangerous, if it is advertised for sale, to make a complaint officially. Trading Standards should police this and, if reported, obtain the product to check its lack of compliance and have such items impounded, Their job, in policing, is to catch unsafe products before they reach the consumer.

Hertfordshire Trading Standards is the appropriate primary office, according to government, that deals with Amazon. Have Which? sat down with them to discuss what actions should be taken?

As far as I am aware local Trading Standards offices will only deal with issues on behalf of people living in the area they cover. If I recall, you contacted Peterborough TS regarding Whirlpool and they declined to help. As mentioned before, I established that National Trading Standards is a company that deals with other companies and will not support the public.

It would be really good to have a separate Convo on Trading Standards where contributors could post examples of problems and what success they have had in getting action. It would obviously be useful if we had some input from Which? to the discussion.

I’ve checked around on this @Wavechange and have learned that you can speak to a relevant Trading Standards to ask what you can do. You can also complain to your MP and ask them to go to Trading Standards. I’ll see what else I can find out!

@elena , Elena, i have taken this route (for example to Peterborough TS re Whirlpoolol and Herts for Amazon) and they simply either ask you to contact your own TS – which tells you to contact Citizens’ Advice – or refer you to CA directly.

When I then contact CA with the complaint, all they tell me they do is pass it on to a TS but then have no further interest in it. They don’t accumulate complaints, they don’t follow up complaints with the TS they send them to, so it seems everything goes out of sight. And, as we have seen with Whirlpool and Amazon, they carry on in their own sweet way.

TS do not have the resources to do their job properly.

Thanks Elena. I’m presuming that you mean speaking to my local Trading Standards rather than the Trading Standards that deals with the company under a Primary Authority arrangement.

My local council said that it was very difficult to make a complaint about a possibly dangerous product if I had not purchased it and this was confirmed by a relation who has worked part-time in Citizens Advice for years. It would be really useful to have a link to some official source of information that supports what you have found out. When I take a faulty product back to a shop and I’m wrongly told to contact the manufacturer I have printed information to hand, having anticipated the problem.

It is years since I have contacted my MP, but I may try this approach in future.

Hi @wavechange – I have some information for you.

Trading Standards departments are responsible for enforcing product safety requirements. Even though you have not bought the product, you should still report it to them. To do this, the route is now to go through the Consumer Helpline which is run by Citizens Advice, and they should pass on the issue to Trading Standards.

Your point also reinforces why we have been campaigning for an overhaul of the product safety system. In practice, Trading Standards have lots of other responsibilities and so are struggling to pro-actively address product safety issues. As you know, we have been campaigning for an independent arms’ length body for product safety that can take a more pro-active approach. The Government has established an Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), but we think that this falls short of what is really needed – as most of the work still falls to Trading Standards. OPSS has now published its Strategy, and an important aspect is having a central point of contact and much clearer information for how consumers should deal with product safety issues.

I hope this helps.

Thanks again, Elena. This is what I did. I suspect that it was assumed that I was a time waster because it is not obvious to most people why a plastic sleeve on the pin of a mains plug could cause electrocution. If I can find an example of a more obviously dangerous product or a banned product I will give it a go.

I do not think it necessary to introduce and fund yet another new body to deal with product safety reporting. We should restore trading standards to carry out the role for which it has been nominated. However I think we need the national version of TS to deal with resolving national issues (e.g. Whirlpool , Amazon, Currys PCW) even though they could be reported locally. Leave local TS to deal with local issues. What do you think?

DerekP says:
13 August 2018

There’s a lot to be said for contacting one’s MP.

When I was much more actively involved in the UK’s Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), they organized a demonstration at Westminster and a concurrent “Lobby of Parliament”.

As part of the latter, I duly entered Parliament and met my MP in its Lobby.

From that experience, I’d urge anyone with a strong campaigning bent to do likewise. (Noting, of course, that MAG is not the only campaigning group out there…)

Malcolm – I have also suggested that we need a national version of Trading Standards. It still makes sense to deal with the local Trading Standards office regarding local problems, but where a large internet trader is selling dangerous goods on their website it would make more sense for one office to handle all complaints.

One problem we have is that ‘National Trading Standards’ deals only with companies, and is a company rather than a government authority. The choice of name is very confusing.

Out of a sense of pronounced boredom, I decided to discover all about Trading Standards, who they are, how they’re funded and why they seem largely ineffective.

It’s rather interesting in that funding for TS nationally is a joke – around £600m – but the overlap and confusion between which bodies do what is quite astonishing. The biggest fly in the governmental ointment seemed to be the OFT, then the CMA – or the FCA. Depends, really.

But two things seem eminently clear:

1. Funding for consumer protection though any body or organisation has been repeatedly cut since around 2010.
2, Our consumer protection legislative bodies are probably the worst in the western word. Both the US and the EU seem to have better.

There are quite a few bodies with ‘super complainant’ status, including the Campaign for Real Ale.

What does seem blindingly obvious, however, is that UK consumers have no idea how to complain about a rogue trader. CA are supposed to be the first port of call, but they’re often dazzlingly ineffective.

What’s needed is a single Independent body to represent UK consumers with the power to launch prosecutions against those who deserve them and the teeth to do so. If there’s any campaign Which? is wondering about pursuing it should be that one.

As far as I know trading standards is still the designated authority in the UK that deals with product safety regulation. It is, as you say, grossly underfunded and therefore under-resourced. It is subject to local authority budgets and, therefore, has been decimated in their cuts. It seems to me the local “branches” should operate under a national TS umbrella but all funded by the government, not left to the local authority. Goodness knows what will happen in Northampton for example

Consumer safety is far, far too important to leave in the hands of local politicisns with far too many competing demands on their money.

Responsibility for conducting Market Surveillance of particular Directives and Regulations is determined is assigned to different organisations. Policy responsibility for consumer product safety, and weights and measures, lies with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Regulations are enforced by the UK’s Local Authorities (Trading Standards in Great Britain and District Councils in Northern Ireland), exercised within the framework of local democratic accountability. There are over 200 such Local Authorities in the UK.”
…..
The Trading Standards services of Local Authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, and Environmental Health departments of district councils in Northern Ireland, may take
enforcement action in cases of formal non-compliance such as inappropriate CE marking, or in cases where the enforcement authority has reason to believe that the product, for example a toy, presents a risk to the safety and health of persons

……….
Trading Standards’ approach to penalties reflects the strategic direction set by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy i.e. support/guidance/advice to businesses to help them become compliant. For businesses that continue to operate outside relevant legislation this is supported by Enforcement Notices and, as a last resort, prosecution in court.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/652476/uk-market-surveillance-report-2017.pdf

This all sounds a bit wishy washy to me and hardly framed in favour of protecting the consumer.

Many local authorities called their trading standards services – the old ‘weights & measures’ – ‘trading standards and consumer protection’ services. Over recent years, the consumer protection aspect has diminished and been reduced to the statutory minimum.

Ministers in the coalition government crowed over their “bonfire of the regulations” which meant that many consumer safeguards were no longer enforceable, and where they were there was just a shadow of an organisation left to do it. Eventually, consumers forgot what protections they should be entitled to and the functions withered away.

As consumers we have collectively allowed this to happen. Which? has protested from time to time but there has been no concerted campaign to restore consumer protection services.

At the local level, ‘trading standards’ is virtually a shell: direct access is effectively denied with Citizens Advice installed as the gatekeeper, reliance on automated systems and self-regulation to deal with day-to-day issues on the high street, do-it-yourself consumer rights legislation that places ordinary customers at a disadvantage against massive companies, and no competence to deal with major national or international traders, or the thousands of scams, frauds and examples of dishonest trading that crop up every day.

I really wish Which? would grasp this particular nettle and launch a big campaign to restore a comprehensive trading standards function throughout the UK based first and foremost on protecting the consumer and not on sheltering the biggest employer in their district. It will not be headline-grabbing stuff, it cannot be short, sharp and simple, it cannot be reduced to bullet points and characterised in press releases as merely ‘broken’. This is a major national disgrace that goes to the heart of what all Which? members, subscribers and supporters are seeking in creating a climate of fair, honest, accountable, legitimate and responsible commerce from which we would all gain. If there is any dividend at all from Brexit this is where some should be spent.

Citizens Advice is effectively a contact point for members of the public who have a problem. It might be matters related to trading standards, housing benefit, parking, landlords, and many other issues. If I call a company or my local council I may know exactly who I would like to speak to but I have to go through a standard procedure to get there. It’s annoying but more efficient overall. When I have contacted CA about problems with goods or services they have taken contact information and brief details of the problem and I have always been passed to Trading Standards. Routing all enquiries via CA is more efficient overall.

The public in general do not understand the role of Trading Standards. A few years ago I did some investigation and the only function that was well understood was the old weights & measures role, for example checking petrol pump accuracy and the accuracy of scales in shops. We need and have a system that can direct the public to Trading Standards when they are the ones that can help.

It is the government that must provide a Trading Standards service that is fit for its purpose and I do hope that Which? is pushing for this. I welcome the launch of the new Office of Product Safety and Standards to coordinate efforts to improve public safety.

I totally agree that we have some serious problems to contend with, John.