EU toy directive, Squishies, slime, RAPEX
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Toys nowadays are not solely designed only for children. There are many new evolving toys appeared on the market, some of them even combined with latest technology like internet connecting products and machinery. Such designs add great play elements, but on the other hand, also raise health concern at the same time.
Recently, squishy and slime toys are very popular and unleash a craze in market surveillance. Their product classification and composition safety are under spotlight in EU. Per EU toy directive, toys should be designed and manufactured in such a way that there are no risks of adverse effects on human health. They should comply with all applicable toy requirements and be safe for children. Market surveillance authorities should carry out appropriate actions to ensure that only safe products available on the market. Parents also should be careful when choose the toys for their children.
Squishies generally are made from colourful compressible memory foam like polyurethane or soft silicone. They are squeezable and would then return to their original form when released. Their colours are bright and they are designed in different forms of small animals or foods like cake and fruits. In May, Belgium published a news1 commenting the age grading for squishies should be considered as toys for children under 3 years of age due to their size, colours, shapes and usage. Denmark2 and Sweden3 also warned about the release of hazardous chemicals from the toys.
European Commission (EC) had also discussed on the age classification and safety issues for such toys. Majority opinion suggested classifying squishies as being for children under 3 years of age. Squishies are very simple and very appealing to small children. Children do not need to have special skills to play with these toys. During the meeting, there were also comments such toys are often sold to older children, teenagers and adults as anti-stress products, and some are for collection purposes. No decision has been made. There will be further meeting for this topic.
Small parts could easily be detached from squishies and lead to choking hazard for children, especially some squishies in the shape of foods could be dangerous food-imitating products as children are more likely to put them in the mouths to bite and chew. Also, the scented squishies may contain allergic fragrances and other CMR substances that are strictly regulated under EU toy directive.
Slime, also named ghost saliva, has sticky and malleable texture which has similar playing features to the squishies. Consumers can easily buy the finished products or DIY sets from the stores. The common ingredients to make a slime are liquid glue and slime activators, such as borax powder or boric acid. The substance boron from the ingredient is the important element to make the slime sticky.
However, these substances can harm the health of children, in particular, if a child makes a slime at home with direct and long-term skin contact to the hazardous chemicals. Intake of excessive levels of boron can lead to irritation, vomiting, cramps and damaging the reproductive system. The glue was also found containing preservatives, highly allergenic dermal substances, as well as many solvents that may cause irritation of the respiratory tract.
As reported in France4 and United Kingdom5, many tested samples were found containing boron exceeding the safety limit 300 mg/kg according to EU toy directive. The EU Rapid Alert System for dangerous non-food products (RAPEX)6 also reported frequent notifications for slime due to the non-compliance with boron content. The measured values range from 500 mg/kg to 26850 mg/kg. The highest level is around 90 times the permitted limit. Meanwhile, Finland7 has also warned parents about children purchasing the hazardous chemical borax, or mixtures containing it, from non-EU online stores for use as an ingredient for creating toy slime.
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