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Swedish Chemicals Agency Identifies Outlawed Hazardous Chemicals in 15% of Evaluated Toys

On 11 April 2016, the Swedish Chemicals Agency (“KEMI”) reported the identification of substances in toys that are banned under a number of laws. These are the RoHS Directive (restricting substances in electrical appliances), the Stockholm Convention against Persistent Organic Pollutants (“POP Convention”), and the REACH Regulation which governs the safety of chemicals.

The surveillance project involved random checks on 112 toys from 29 companies. Hazardous chemicals were found in 17 of the evaluated toys. The chemicals found were: phthalates, short-chain chlorinated paraffins (“SCCPs”) and lead. KEMI nonetheless expressed the view that these inspections are random checks, and do not reflect the content of all toys on the market.

Hong Kong sellers will appreciate that the presence of hazardous chemicals in products such as toys, clothing and other textile products remains a main reason for products being withdrawn, or prevented from reaching the Swedish – or indeed the EU – market.

Moreover, a staff member from KEMI stated that the identification of these substances has a negative impact on the population in the long term, since children, especially, are sensitive to the exposure to these chemicals.

The following points demonstrate the main highlights of KEMI’s findings:

  • Out of 112 toys, hazardous phthalates used as softeners in plastic were found in 8 toys. A number of phthalates have been found to contain hormone-disrupting properties, and are banned in toys and child care products placed on the EU market, if their concentration is higher than a tolerated 0.1%.
  • 5 toys contained banned SCCPs; SCCPs are suspected of being carcinogenic.
  • Lead was found in 8 electronically-operated toys. Lead can have negative effects on the nervous system and on mental abilities. Lead in electronic products is primarily an environmental issue in relation to the handling of waste.

On the positive side, it was found that the amount of tested toys containing lead and phthalates has decreased compared to 2012 and 2013. According to KEMI, there is a clear improvement and companies in the industry appear to have more knowledge on the topic.

The provisions regulating the substances contained in toys can be found in various EU directives and regulations. Directive 2009/48/EU on toy safety has to be followed with regard to, among other provisions, CE marking. However, the findings made by KEMI were not in connection to specific requirements laid down in this Directive (e.g., the restriction on certain phthalates is set out in Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation).

After the evaluation was carried out, the suspect companies are reported to have stopped the selling of toys containing banned substances. However, KEMI reported seven companies to the environmental prosecuting authority.

Hong Kong traders should bear in mind that each company is responsible for ensuring the safety of the toys they sell, and to keep them free of hazardous chemicals (or within the legally allowed limits). KEMI has announced that it shall continue the inspection of hazardous chemicals in toys throughout 2016 by especially analysing the content of phthalates in soft toys. By means of such inspections, KEMI wishes to increase the general level of knowledge among companies operating in Sweden regarding this specific matter.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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