Warning over hand-me-down plastic toys: 84% contain illegal levels of toxic ‘forever chemicals’

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Warning over hand-me-down plastic toys: 84% of old figurines and dolls contain illegal levels of toxic ‘forever chemicals’ that can stunt their growth and cause cancer, study warns

  • Researchers in Sweden looked at levels of several harmful toxins in 150 toys 
  • Some old toys contained up to 400 times the legal limit of ‘forever chemicals’
  • Concluded eco-friendly trend towards reusables ‘is not always a good thing’

Hand-me-down plastic toys such as figurines, dolls and Lego pose a health risk to children, experts have warned.

A study found the majority contain dangerous levels of toxic chemicals which can stunt youngsters’ growth and have been linked to cancer and infertility.

Researchers in Sweden looked at levels of two harmful toxins in more than 150 old and new toys.

While around three in 10 new toys exceeded EU and UK legal limits, more than 80 per cent of old toys breached the target.

Some old toys contained up to 400 times the legal concentrations of ‘forever chemicals’, which can take years to degrade in the body.

Researchers said the broader societal trend away from single-use goods ‘is not always automatically a good thing’.

There is mounting pressure on companies from fast fashion shops to supermarkets to focus on reusables to cut down carbon emissions and tackle climate change.

Hand-me-down plastic toys such as figurines, dolls and Lego pose a health risk to children, experts have warned (file)

Hand-me-down plastic toys such as figurines, dolls and Lego pose a health risk to children, experts have warned (file)

What ARE ‘forever chemicals’? 

‘Forever chemicals’ are a class of common industrial compounds that don’t break down when they’re released into the environment.

Humans are exposed to these chemicals after they’ve come in contact with food, soil or water reservoirs.

These chemicals — known more properly as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS — are added to cookware, carpets, textiles and other items to make them more water- and stain-repellant.

PFAS contamination has been detected in water near manufacturing facilities, as well as at military bases and firefighting training facilities where flame-retardant foam is used.

The chemicals have been linked to an increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer, and damage to the immune system, as well as birth defects, smaller birth weights, and decreased vaccine response in children.

Experts at the University of Gothenburg, tested 157 different toys, including balls, dolls, figurines and dress-up items for phthalates or chlorinated paraffins.

The former are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more durable, often known as plasticisers. The latter are used to make toys non-inflammable and are thought to be toxic to humans.

Phthalates have been linked to an increased risk of asthma, breast cancer, obesity, diabetes, low IQ, and development and fertility issues.

It is thought that once these durable chemicals get into the body they interfere with our internal systems and disrupt our DNA — which could lead to cancer.

Laws in the EU and Britain mean manufacturers cannot use phthalate in concentrations greater than 0.1 per cent of total weight of the toy.

The limit for short chain chlorinated paraffins is 0.15 per cent. 

But the study found 30 per cent of new toys contained levels that exceeded those targets.

Older toys were significantly worse, with 84 per cent containing illegal levels of the chemicals.

Lead researcher Professor Bethanie Carney Almroth said: ‘Many of the old balls were found to have concentrations of phthalates totalling more than 40 per cent of the toy’s weight, which is 400 times over the legal limit.

‘The study indicates that reuse and recycling is not always automatically a good thing. 

‘The transition to a more circular economy requires bans and other policy measures that get rid of hazardous chemicals from plastic and other materials.’

The legal limits on hidden chemicals in plastic toys were only brought in recently, meaning they do not apply to older products.

Nearly all pregnant women are being exposed to chemicals linked to cancer, study suggests

Nearly all pregnant women are exposed to chemicals from plastics, cleaning products, clothing and other household items that scientists say may put them at a higher risk of cancer and harm their baby’s development.

University of California, San Francisco researchers tested urine samples from 171 women and found almost all had melamine and its by-product cyanuric acid present — which can come from pots, plastics, kitchen counters and pesticides. 

The vast majority had also been exposed to aromatic amines commonly leached into the surrounding environment from clothing dyes and pigments.

Dr Tracey Woodruff, a gynecologist who led the study, said the chemicals presence was a ‘serious concern’, adding to DailyMail.com that she was worried they may have a worse impact when mixed together.

The chemicals are common making it virtually impossible to avoid them, but Woodruff said exposure could be reduced by buying less fruit and veg wrapped in plastic. 

There is no regular monitoring of these chemicals, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it is safe to be exposed to melamine below 0.06 mg per mg per two pounds of body weight.  The World Health Organization says it is safe up to 0.2 mg.



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