Health for humans, animals & plants

Info & recommendations about toys

According to the Toy Ordinance 2011, toys are products that are intended or designed, exclusively or not exclusively, to be used for play by children under the age of 14. In principle, children represent a consumer group that is very worthy of protection, especially children under the age of three. Our regular examinations of toys show that the majority of toys are safe, but that products are also repeatedly found on the market that can endanger children's health.

One in five toy samples has safety defects. Common problem areas are easily detachable small parts, toy cell phones that are too loud or plastic guns that shoot too hard. Bacteria in soap bubble solutions also occur again and again, or technical defects in vehicles such as scooters. Toys and children's costumes must also not be easily flammable. Another cause for complaint is the use of banned plasticizers (phthalates), which are often contained in the heads of cheap baby dolls, fashion dolls or inflatable water toys. As a matter of principle, only buy products with the CE mark.

Toys prefer childproof

The scope of examination and testing of toys at our Institute for Food Safety Linz (LSL) is therefore extensive: mechanical and physical properties and flammability, chemical properties such as migration of certain elements (lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium, etc.), migration of organotin compounds, testing for plasticizers, especially for banned phthalates, testing for banned azo dyes, and much more. Sensory testing, testing for saliva and perspiration fastness, and labeling verification are also part of the testing.

Our service and analytical services for toys and child care products, information on methods as well as the corresponding contact points can be found here.

Verification of physical and chemical properties

Toys for children under 3 years of age Since it is known that babies and toddlers like to put everything in their mouths, toys for children under 3 years of age, for example, must not contain any small parts that can be swallowed and pose a choking risk. According to EN 71 (European standard "Safety of Toys"), such toys and detachable parts of the toy must not fit into a specially standardized small parts test cylinder modeled on a child's mouth. Toys for children under age 3 must meet many other special requirements, all of which are routinely tested. Toys must also not emit chemicals in quantities that pose a health risk, even if they are sucked on for hours; cords must only be a certain length so that small children cannot strangle themselves with them; stuffing in stuffed animals must not be accessible or have parts that could pose a risk of injury; cooling bite rings must be appropriately tight and strong so that they cannot be bitten open or through by little ones The toy must not contain any small balls or suction cups that could pose a choking hazard, and much more.

Care should also be taken with toys that may appeal to children under the age of 3. Children under 3 years of age have an increased need to cuddle, respond to simply designed toys (including those with simple cause/effect functions) and objects that resemble them (e.g., baby, baby animal). These toys must meet the requirements of intended use - in these cases, for children under 3 years of age. Toys marked "not suitable for children under three years" must be kept out of the reach of young children. Toys for children 3 years and older Toys for children 3 years and older must meet many different requirements, also depending on the category of toy, to be considered safe. Toys for slightly older children may contain small parts, but must be labeled with a legible and appropriate notice stating that the toy is not suitable for children under three years of age, supplemented by a brief statement of the hazards that justify this restriction. If older children are already playing with small toys (e.g. puzzles or beads), caregivers must ensure that younger children do not have access to them. In the case of projectile toys (e.g. toy guns), tests are carried out to determine whether the toy complies with the kinetic energy limits. If this energy is too high, there is a risk of injury. So it can literally "go in the eye" when children shoot the small plastic pellets at each other while playing. In the case of projectile toys with suction cups, particular attention is paid to checking whether the suction cups are attached firmly enough, as easily detached suction cups pose a choking hazard.

Many toys are too loud. For toys with acoustic functions such as toy cell phones, wind toys (instrument replicas, whistles, etc.), guns with primers, rattles, we check the sound pressure level, as toys that are too loud can cause hearing damage. Toys that are intended to bear the child's weight - such as toy bicycles and scooters - are checked for their strength and construction. Among other things, these must be designed so that children cannot pinch their fingers between moving parts during play. Compliance with requirements that apply generally, i.e. to all toys, is also monitored. These include, for example, that toys must not have any sharp edges or points that could pose a risk of injury.

Checking for flammability

In addition to the testing of the physical and chemical properties, testing is also carried out in each case with regard to flammability. For example, carnival costumes for children must either be non-flammable or they must only burn so slowly that in an emergency, i.e. if the costume has caught fire, there is sufficient time to remove it without exposing the child to the risk of burns. This requirement also applies to toys that can be entered by the child (e.g., toy tents, pop-up houses). In addition to the above requirements, such products must also not have melting, burning fragments detached in the event of ignition.

Product warnings

Consumers are informed about dangerous toys via the media through appropriate product warnings. If toys pose a serious risk and other member states may also be affected, a Europe-wide notification is made in the so-called RAPEX system (Rapid Exchange of Information System - the EU's rapid alert system for all dangerous consumer goods, with the exception of food, medicines and medical devices). See our service on product warnings and product recalls.

  2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Number of samples tested 563 429 445 429 515 550 563 625 508 487
- thereof not objected to in % 63,2 % 79,2 % 77,5 % 76,2 % 63,1 % 44,5 % 43,7 % 56,8 % 60,4 % 57,3 %
- of which objected to in % 36,8 % 21,8 % 22,5 % 23,8 % 36,9 % 55,5 % 56,3 % 43,2 % 39,6 % 42,7 %
Reasons for complaint                    
Safety deficiencies* 16,0 % 6,3 % 13,0 % 14,2 % 21,9 % 13,3 % 22,7 % 17,6 % 15,4 % 16,6 %
- thereof harmful to health 4,4 % 1,4 % 3,2 % 2,3 % 3,9 % 3,1 % 5,3 % 4,8 % 3,1 % 2,1 %
- thereof phthalates 4,3 % 0,5 % 2,0 % 4,7 % 6,2 % 3,5 % 6,6 % 4,3 % 1,4 % 2,3 %
Labeling deficiencies** 30,5 % 18,2 % 16,6 % 17,5 % 28,0 % 26,9 % 25,9 % 24,6 % 24,8 % 28,5 %
Formal defects***         10,9 % 44,7 % 41,6 % 29,0 % 22,4 % 19,9 %

 

*Safety defects e.g. toys too loud, kinetic energy too high (e.g. projectile toys), bacterial contamination (e.g. contaminated bubble solutions), technical defects (e.g. detachable parts) etc. **Toy regulation, toy labeling regulation, LMIV, misleading ***EG declaration of conformity, traceability.

 

Toy safety tips

  • Buy only toys that have the CE mark. This confirms the manufacturer that the toy meets the requirements of the Toy Safety Directive.
  • Always observe warnings and instructions for use, especially age recommendations such as: "0M+". The symbol (0-3) indicates, for example, that this toy is not suitable for children under 3 years of age. In addition, it must be stated why this is so (choking hazard due to small parts, strangulation hazard due to cord, etc.).
  • Select toys according to the child's age and abilities - toys that are too simple cause boredom, and toys that are too complicated cause frustration.
  • Test toys for children under the age of 3 to make sure that they do not contain any detachable small parts - for example, pull on the button eyes of a soft toy before letting your child play with it. Since toddlers like to put everything in their mouths, small parts that can easily detach from the toy can pose a choking hazard.
  • Do not extend the strings of pull-along toys; in extreme cases, this can create a strangulation hazard for young children.
  • Hold toy cell phones to your ear even briefly - if you find the sounds and melodies that sound unpleasantly loud, they may pose a danger to your child.
  • Does your child like to play with bows and arrows or similar toys? Many such toy sets include arrows with suction cups. Check to make sure these suction cups are firmly attached to the arrow. Suction cups that are easily detached can pose a choking hazard if children shoot such an arrow into their mouths. The dart is pulled out, but the suction cup can get stuck in the throat.
  • Inflatable water toys are great fun for children and encourage exercise. However, please always remember that this is a toy and not a buoyancy aid.
  • Plastic toys exposed to light and weather will age more quickly. Therefore, always check whether your little one's sand toys, for example, are still okay. Parts can break off from old, brittle plastic that have sharp edges and pose a risk of injury, but small parts can also come loose, which in turn can pose a choking hazard.
  • Please make sure that small children do not play with toys from older siblings that are unsuitable for them and never forget the basic duty of supervision.

In cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection (BMSGPK) and the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, we have published the brochure "Gutes Spielzeug! Guide to Choosing Toys", in which you can find many practical tips.

You can also find a lot of information about children's toys on here.

Carnival costumes

To ensure the safety of children and to identify and mitigate risks that may be posed by carnival costumes, carnival costumes are examined at our Institute for Food Safety Linz, both during routine scheduled sampling and specifically during priority actions (SPA).

Health risk

We check general requirements with regard to physical / mechanical properties (testing according to EN 71-1), this includes, for example, testing for sharp points, detachable small parts in costumes for children under three years of age (choking hazard), cords for children under three years of age (strangulation hazard) or also testing with regard to the thickness of packaging films.

Furthermore, carnival costumes are tested for flammability (test according to EN 71-2). They must either not burn at all or, if they are flammable, they must be self-extinguishing (i.e. they must stop burning by themselves during the test) or they must only have a certain maximum flame propagation speed. In any case, carnival costumes must burn only slowly enough to allow sufficient time for removal in an emergency (when the costume has caught fire) without exposing the child to the risk of severe burns.

In addition, the costumes are tested for chemical properties such as azo dyes in textile materials, for certain elements(lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium, etc.) according to EN 71-3 or for plasticizers, especially for prohibited phthalates, if plastic parts are present.

Year Number of samples carnival costumes Total of which number of carnival costumes from main events
2019 65 63
2018 15
2017 38 38
2016 7
2015 25 24
2014 9
2013 14
2012 45 43

 

During the focus campaign on the flammability of Halloween costumes in 2019, the complaint rate was 5 percent. Only one sample was objected to because the permitted burning time was significantly exceeded and more material than permitted burned.

The complaint rate for the 2019 Carnival Costume Focus Operation was 53.5 percent. Two samples (full-body overall, headgear with sewn-on beard) were found to be harmful: The flame spread rate was greatly increased and they could not be removed quickly without complications.

Four samples showed increased flame spread velocities, primarily high pile plush on hoods was affected. One sample was found to have a sharp tip (risk of injury), another sample had filler material (padded top) accessible. In two samples, the packaging film was too thin (risk of suffocation).

Safety deficiencies due to flammability have increased significantly compared to recent years. The reasons for this include a now very large product range with elaborate designs (overalls, sewn-on hoods, padded garments, etc.) and the use of a wide variety of materials (high-pile plush, jersey fabrics, feathers, etc.). Complaints based on general safety defects (without defects based on flammability) and labeling defects are within the range of the focus action 2017.

The overall complaint rate for Halloween costumes was significantly lower than the focus action for carnival costumes also conducted in 2019. This may be particularly related to the design of the costumes and the materials used. The carnival costumes were much more elaborate (in some cases, full-body costumes), padded fabrics were used, in some cases, high-pile plush, and individual parts were plush animal-like in design. Halloween costumes were much "simpler" in design, especially without padded material and high pile material.

Tips

  • Buy costumes that are easy and therefore quick to put on and take off, so that the child can quickly free himself from the burning fabric in an emergency.
  • Do not choose costumes that have ribbons, cords, or the like around the neck that children could use to strangle themselves.
  • Take special care with costumes that have head coverings, e.g., plush hanging ears or wigs with long hanging hair-like material, to prevent children from coming into contact with open flames.
  • Remove packaging films/ bags and do not leave them for children to play with. If children pull these bags over their heads, the film, if very thin, can be sucked so tightly over the nose and mouth when breathing that the air supply is cut off and there is a risk of suffocation.

Fairground & Projectile Toys

Cheap toys from fairgrounds, especially projectile toys on fairground stalls have often shown defects in our investigations in the past. This is because bow and arrow sets, projectile toys such as toy guns or soft guns can be dangerous.

Health risk

Children under the age of 3 like to put everything in their mouths and suck, suck and bite at it. Many a product offered at the fair has already had a long service life, has mostly been exhibited outdoors and has therefore been exposed to UV radiation in particular. Plastic ages more quickly under these conditions and becomes brittle. This in turn increases the likelihood of small parts breaking off from the toy and being swallowed.

Especially with projectile toys with plastic balls and suction cup projectiles, there is a risk of external injuries if children, intentionally or unintentionally, shoot at each other while playing. The eyes are particularly at risk. Since it can happen that children shoot projectiles into each other's mouths while playing, suction cup projectiles must have a certain minimum length so that they can be easily pulled out of the throat again in such a case. It is equally important that the suction cups of such projectiles cannot be easily detached. Otherwise, there is a risk that the suction cup will remain in the throat when it is pulled out, again posing a choking hazard. Especially in the case of toy guns that use the typical small plastic balls as ammunition, specimens have been found time and again that have far too high a kinetic energy. It goes without saying that toys need to bang to shoot. In some cases, however, the sound level of these toys is so high that children's hearing can be endangered.

Situation in Austria

At regular intervals, on behalf of the Ministry of Health, we carry out campaigns on the topic of "Examination of cheap toys from fairs", which show a frightening picture. In the 2018 focus action, 73 percent showed defects, and in 8 percent of the samples, children were exposed to a serious risk, so they were judged "harmful to health."

Two toy categories were found to have a particularly high risk potential: one group is toys for children under 3 years of age. The second toy category that repeatedly leads to complaints is that of projectile toys:

In recent years, our experts from the Institute for Food Safety Linz (LSL) have examined various types of projectile toys both during routine planned sampling and specifically during focus campaigns. Particularly in 2010 and 2011, the complaint rate for this toy category was alarmingly high (about 30 percent of the samples showed defects, and about 10 percent showed such serious defects that an assessment as "harmful to health" was made). Subsequent years showed a slight improvement, and in 2018 the requirements of the standard for projectile toys were revised and supplemented (e.g., a loading and firing option for foreign projectiles is considered). Although there was a significant improvement in the situation in 2013 and 2014, there are still isolated projectile toys on the market that do not meet the requirements of the Toy Ordinance or the EN 71 standard ("Safety of toys").

A decrease in the number of complaints can be seen in particular with regard to "Kugerl pistols". Here, the 2013 Softairwaffenverordnung (Softair Weapons Ordinance ) seems to be taking effect, according to which the distribution and sale of softair weapons, so-called softguns, to persons under 18 years of age and at markets and market-like events is prohibited. Previously, such softguns were sold without restriction to children as "normal toys" at toy stands, especially at fairs. However, these soft guns often had an extremely high kinetic energy.

Tips

  • Parents and all supervisors can only be advised to carry out a few self-tests before leaving the projectile toy with plastic balls and suction cup projectiles to a child:
  • Let it bang once, let yourself be deliberately shot once (e.g., on the forearm), pull on the suction cup: do your ears roar, does the "bullet hole" hurt, does the suction cup come loose? If so, the toy is not suitable for your child!
  • The distribution and sale of softair weapons or softguns to persons under 18 years is prohibited

Last updated: 19.09.2022

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