The Queensland Government is leading the way in the battle to stamp out toxic phthalates in children’s toys.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) recently stopped the sale of 2500 toys after they were found to contain up to 29 per cent of the phthalate DEHP – 29 times the legal limit.
Office Fair Trading product safety expert, Dave Strachan, said the case was the first of its kind in Australia since a permanent nationwide ban on certain products that contain more than one per
cent DEHP was declared on 1 February 2011.
“Phthalates are commonly used to make plastics such as PVC soft and flexible,” Mr Strachan said.
“In most uses this is quite safe. The problem occurs when the phthalate DEHP is used for toys and other products intended for use by children up to 36 months old, especially if they can be readily sucked or chewed.
“The main health concern associated with DEHP is the risk of reproductive toxicity – basically it can affect the developing reproductive systems of children who chew on or suck products containing higher levels of DEHP.”
The nationwide ban declared in February prohibits the supply of plastic products that contain or have an accessible component containing more than one per cent DEHP (by weight) and that are intended for use by and can be readily chewed or sucked by children up to 36 months old.
“In this instance OFT inspectors performed a spot check on an importer in September and discovered a number of soft plastic squeeze toys they suspected may contain DEHP,” Mr Strachan said.
“Samples of eight toys sold by the importer were sent for chemical analysis and alarmingly they were found to contain high levels of DEHP, ranging from 8.5 to 29 per cent of total weight.
“Information provided by the importer showed the toys had been distributed to small discount variety shops and market traders in most states in Australia and via internet sales.
“The importer has issued a recall to the shops he supplied the toys to, however, a number were sold on eBay or to people who simply walked in to his showroom,” he said.
“It is important that anyone who thinks they may have purchased one of these toys checks with the store they bought it from. If you can’t, my advice is to bin it.”
Mr Strachan said while the importer was not necessarily aware the toys contained the toxic chemical, ignorance was no defence, especially when it came to the health of young children.
“People importing toys need to be sure the products they’re supplying meet Australia’s stringent safety standards,” he said.
“They should familiarise themselves with any regulations that apply to their products and ensure they comply with them before they start supplying them.
“In this instance the Office of Fair Trading issued the importer with fines totalling $33 000, which included fines for toys that failed the small parts test and other product safety breaches.
“Other toy importers should take heed and ensure their own products stand up to Australian standards.”
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