Warning over toxic counterfeit toys

Seized counterfeit toys.
Seized counterfeit toys.

Parents are being warned to be cautious about counterfeit toys this Christmas after tests revealed some products contained harmful levels of chemicals.

Fake Maleficent Disney figures, seized by trading standards officers, are the latest in a long line of counterfeit products found to contain high quantities of harmful chemicals called phthalates.

Several other cheap imports and counterfeit products such as dolls, swimming goggles, fancy-dress make-up, false nails and loom bands have been seized or recalled because of unacceptable levels of the substance.

If ingested when a toy is chewed the chemical, used to soften plastics, poses a serious health risk including an increased risk of cancer, asthma and fertility problems in later life.

Philip Soderquest, head of public protection at Northumberland County Council, said: “These products can cause serious long-term consequences to a child’s health so we are urging parents to be extremely cautious when buying toys for their children, particularly around Christmas when demand for these products is high.

“We are asking customers to make sure they are buying toys and gifts from reputable shops and to be aware of potential risks, particularly from products that appear to be cheaply made. Customers should always look at the packaging for distributor details and look out for a CE mark meaning the products comply with European standards.”

The use of phthalates in toys across Europe is tightly restricted to ensure products are safe for children to use. Toy manufacturers and products must contain no more than 0.1 per cent of the chemicals.

The Maleficent toys, seized by Warwickshire trading standards team earlier this month were found to contain 18 times the legal limit of phthalates.

Earlier this year thousands of counterfeit Frozen dolls were also seized from shops in Pontefract and West Yorkshire for posing a serious health risk due to harmful levels of chemicals.

Imports of plastic charms for the popular loom band sets were also found to be a serious risk after being found to be 50 per cent over the legal limit of phthalates.

Coun Susan Dungworth, cabinet member responsible for public health at the county council, said: “It really is frightening to think of the serious risks that these toys that are often lovingly bought by parents as gifts, can pose such a serious health risk.

“Many of these toys bought in the last 12 months will be destined to end up as Christmas gifts but customers must be on their guard and only purchase products that they trust to be safe.”

Consumers are urged to report any sellers, websites or products that they believe to be unsafe by contacting Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.