According to a new study, second-hand toys might contain toxic chemicals that could pose a health risk to young children.
Scientists from the University of Plymouth used X-ray fluorescence spectrometry to analyse 200 used toys found in UK nurseries, homes and second-hand shops.
Results revealed old Lego bricks, toy cars and dolls contained hazardous elements.
The research, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, found the second-hand toys failed to meet current safety guidelines.
Second-Hand Toys Could Contain Toxic Chemicals
Many of the toys contained high levels of toxic chemicals, including barium, lead, bromine and selenium.
It’s well known these chemicals, even in low doses, can pose health risks to young children over an extended period of time.
Young children who suck and chew old toys are at risk of ingesting the chemicals. The study found red, yellow and black plastics to be the most risky.
Lead researcher, Dr Andrew Turner, said:
“This is the first systematic investigation of hazardous elements in second-hand plastic toys in the UK. Second hand toys are an attractive option to families because they can be inherited directly from friends or relatives or obtained cheaply and readily from charity stores, flea markets and the Internet. But while the Toy Safety Directive applies to new products there is no regulation covering the recycling or re-sale of older toys.
“With the introduction and refinement of the Toy Safety Directive, the plastics industry has had to take steps to eliminate hazardous elements from new toys. However, consumers should be made more aware of the potential risks associated with small, mouthable and brightly coloured old plastic toys or components. Without that, the attractive cost, convenience and recyclability of previously used toys has the potential to create a legacy of chemical contamination for younger children”.
Problems With Plastics
This news might come as a blow to some families. Many opt for second-hand toys as a way of reducing their consumption of new plastics.
Most plastics end up in landfill where they leach chemicals into the soil and water.
Plastic toys are often the most likely to break and this increases the likelihood of them ending up in landfill.
The study points out the risks of choosing second-hand plastics in place of brand new plastic toys.
More recent second-hand plastic could meet current safety guidelines and be safer to use. The study, however, highlights the potential risks of not knowing where toys have come from.
Many families are opting for more sustainable toys in an effort to curb their environmental impact.
For those families, wooden and natural toys offer safe, creative and long-lasting alternatives to plastic toys.
You can read more about the benefits of using wooden toys in BellyBelly’s article Wooden Toys – Five Reasons Why They Aren’t Just For Hippies.