Sept. 15, 2022: Hand-me-downs plastic toys and dress-up items can be a cancer risk for children, according to a new study by Swedish researchers. Reusing old toys constitute a health risk as these may contain toxic chemicals that can cause cancer, damage DNA, or disrupt future reproductive capacities.
Researchers at the University of Gothenburg tested a large number of old toys and dress-up items made of plastic and found that 84% of the items contain toxins that can disrupt growth and development in children, according to a press statement posted on the university’s website.
“These toxins are an obstacle for the circular economy in the future involving reuse and recycling,” the researchers wrote. A circular economy models itself on sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible.
“The current use-and-discard behavior is wasteful with resources and a drain on the Earth’s finite resources. In 2021, the European Parliament adopted a Circular Economy Action Plan. It encourages the re-use, repair, and recycling of products and materials. But the question is whether all products are good to reuse again?”
Toy Safety Directive
The EU legislation on the chemical content of toys, known as the Toy Safety Directive, regulates the permissible quantities of a number of chemical substances found in toys in an attempt to protect the health and safety of children.
At present, the permissible limit values for new toys under the Toy Safety Directive are 0.1 percent by weight for phthalates and 0.15 percent by weight for short-chain chlorinated paraffins.
“The concentrations of toxic substances were significantly higher in the older items. For example, many of the old balls were found to have concentrations of phthalates totaling more than 40 percent of the toy’s weight, which is 400 times over the legal limit,” says researcher Bethanie Carney Almroth.
For the study, researchers selected 157 different toys, new and old, and measured their chemical content.
“Although the Toy Safety Directive has been crucial in reducing the incidence of hazardous chemicals in toys, it has only been applicable to new toys, not old ones,” researcher Daniel Slunge, Environmental Economist at the University of Gothenburg wrote.