Letting children play with traditional plastic toys could pose a health risk. When researchers from the University of Gothenburg tested a large number of old toys and plastic clothing items, it was found that 84% of the items contained toxins that can disrupt children’s growth, development and reproductive abilities. These toxins are an obstacle to the circular economy of the future involving reuse and recycling, the researchers explain.
Current use-and-discard behavior is a waste of resources and a drain on Earth’s limited resources. In 2021, the European Parliament adopted an action plan for the circular economy. Encourage the reuse, repair and recycling of products and materials. But the question is whether all products are good to reuse
Researchers at the University of Gothenburg recently published an article in the Journal of Hazardous Materials Advances showing that old toys and clothing items may contain toxic chemicals that can cause cancer, damage DNA or disrupt children’s future reproductive abilities.
Toxic chemicals in most old toys
The dangerous chemicals discovered included phthalates and short-chain chlorinated paraffins used as plasticizers and flame retardants in toys.
Professor Bethanie Carney Almroth of the University of Gothenburg conducts research on the environmental impact of plastics and plastic-related chemicals and led the research study conducted at the Interdisciplinary Center for Chemical Risk Management and Assessment Strategies (FRAM) . For the study, the researchers selected 157 different toys, new and old, and measured their chemical content.
The study showed that most of the older toys and objects (84%) contained amounts of chemicals that exceed current legal limits. A total of 30% of the latest toys and items have also exceeded legal limits. By far, however, older toys were significantly worse.
“Toxic concentrations were significantly higher in older articles. For example, many of the old balls were found to have phthalate concentrations in excess of 40% of the toy’s weight, which is 400 times the legal limit, ”says Bethanie Carney Almroth.
Toxins an obstacle to the circular economy
EU legislation on the chemical content of toys, known as the Toy Safety Directive, regulates the permitted quantities of a number of chemicals in toys in an effort to protect the health and safety of children. Currently, the allowable limit values for new toys under the Toy Safety Directive are 0.1% by weight for phthalates and 0.15% by weight for short-chain chlorinated paraffins.
“The study indicates that reuse and recycling are not always automatically a good thing. The transition to a more circular economy requires bans and other policy measures that eliminate hazardous chemicals from plastics and other materials. While the Toy Safety Directive has been instrumental in reducing the incidence of hazardous chemicals in toys, it has only been applicable to new toys, not old ones, ”explains Daniel Slunge, an environmental economist at the University of Gothenburg.
Reference: Carney Almroth B, Slunge D. The circular economy could expose children to dangerous phthalates and chlorinated paraffins through old toys and childcare items. J Haz Mat lawyer. 2022; 7: 100107. doi: 10.1016 / j.hazadv.2022.100107
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