Hand-me-down plastic toys may not be good for kids

Lisa Rapaport

(Reuters Health) - Children who play with second-hand plastic toys may be exposed to unsafe levels of chemicals like lead and cadmium that have been linked to developmental problems and organ damage, a UK study suggests.

For the study, researchers tested 200 second-hand plastic toys they found in homes, nurseries and charity shops. Toys included cars, trains, action figures, puzzles and blocks - all of which were small enough to be chewed by young children.

They discovered high concentrations of hazardous elements including antimony, barium, bromine, cadmium, chromium, lead and selenium in many building blocks, figures and items of jewelry that were typically either yellow, red or black.

Even at low levels, these chemicals can be toxic to children who are exposed to them over an extended period of time, especially when kids chew on toys.

“The findings confirm the presence of relatively large concentrations of chemicals which have since been restricted or banned, including the brightly colored pigments cadmium sulphoselenide and lead chromate,” said Andrew Turner, an environmental health researcher at the University of Plymouth.

“The study also found evidence of large quantities of flame retardant residues in some neutrally colored toys,” Turner said by email. “These residues are likely derived from the recycling of electronic waste.”


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