Brussels, 15 April 2010
Questions and Answers on Toy Joint Action
What was the objective of this joint action by product safety authorities in Member States?
The main objectives of this joint action were to:
ensure that toys for children under 3 years of age placed on the EU market are safe with respect to small parts and heavy metals;
gather experience with best practice techniques in market surveillance, including undertaking joint testing, and promoting cooperation between market surveillance and customs authorities.
gain and share experience related to the use of X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) (XRF) equipment for screening heavy metals in toys.
This action was co-financed by the European Commission under the Consumer Policy Programme (2007-13).
Participants were market surveillance authorities from thirteen countries; Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Netherlands, Slovak Republic. Organisations from Cyprus and Turkey took an active interest in the project to share best practices and enhance co-operation. The joint action was coordinated by PROSAFE, an informal network of European market surveillance officials and was led by the Netherlands (see annex for a list of authorities).
Why were these products chosen for investigation?
Toys are always a priority for national market surveillance authorities given the vulnerable nature of the user group i.e. children. This attention is also proven by the 2009 RAPEX statistics, which show that toys were again the most notified product group with 28% of all notifications. These enforcement efforts have shown that toys with small parts or heavy metals expose especially young children to (long-term) serious risks, sometimes leading to fatalities.
What are the main risks associated with small parts and heavy metals in toys?
Small parts if ingested, inhaled, put in nasal cavities or ear channels can cause serious injury and death from choking or other complications. Young children have a well-known habit of putting things into their mouths, noses and ears, and toys and toy components for this age category need, besides other requirements, to be above a certain size to avoid asphyxiation and other injuries.
Heavy metals such as lead and cadmium are well-known toxins which may result in damage to kidneys and the central nervous system. Young children are considered especially vulnerable to such substances and hence their exposure to these substances should be minimised as much as possible.
Which data exists on accidents and injuries linked to these kinds of toys?
There is a significant amount of information regarding accidents and injuries related to toys for children under 3 years of age. Firstly, the SusySafe project (another joint action supported by the European Commission) has established the biggest global database of accident and injury data linked to foreign bodies. Of the 16.000 cases in this database 22% is toy-related.
ACTIVITIES AND RESULTS
What were the main activities undertaken during the project?
During 2009, approximately 14,000 toys were inspected at over 1.400 economic operators, focusing on possible (detachable) small parts. During the same period, approximately 2,300 toys were screened with hand-held XRF analysers at around 360 economic operators for the presence of heavy metals.
Subsequently, 576 samples were tested in a laboratory against applicable mechanical requirements as laid down in the Toy Safety Directive and European Standard EN71-1. 227 and samples were tested against the heavy metal requirements as laid down in the Toy Safety Directive and European Standard EN71-3.
Although most of the inspections were undertaken by market surveillance authorities, customs in some participating countries inspected a total of 160 shipments of imported toys.
What were the main findings of the action?
The following results were presented on 15 April 2010 by PROSAFE during the final seminar of the joint action.
Of the 576 samples tested for small parts, 200 (35%) failed to comply with the relevant safety requirements, meaning that these non-compliant toys contained small parts that may cause choking. The table below gives an overview of the non-compliances per toy types tested for mechanical properties.
Of the 227 samples tested for heavy metal content, only 17 did not comply with the limits as laid down in the legislation. This is a non-compliance rate of 7.5%. The table below gives an overview of the non-compliances per toy types tested.
From this table it is clear that there are relatively few non-compliances regarding the heavy metal content in toys.
It has to be noted that the tested toys were selected through non-random sampling. This means that market surveillance officials selected only those products they believed would most likely be unsafe.
Which corrective measures were taken? The main corrective actions imposed by national authorities as a result of the findings during the joint action, were sales bans and withdrawals from the market. Many of these measures were notified in the RAPEX system, thus contributing to toys being the most notified product group in RAPEX in 2009 (see MEMO/10/130. for more information about the RAPEX statistics for 2009).
What was the origin of the tested toys?
According to the information provided by the participating Member States, most toys tested during the joint action came from China. This reflects the importance of China as a toy exporting country. An estimated 85% of toys on the European market originate from China. It is therefore likely that many of the toys of unknown origin also come from China.
When looking at the percentage of unsafe toys originating from China, this was found to be 38% compared to 36% for toys originating within the EU and 29% for those of unknown origin.
RULES AND RESPONSIBILITY
Which rules govern the safety of toys?
The safety of toys in the EU is governed by a combination of rules.
First of all, the Toy Safety Directive 88/378/EEC lays down the safety criteria or "essential requirements" which toys must meet during manufacture and before being placed on the market. The safety criteria cover general risks (protection against health hazards or physical injury) and particular risks (physical and mechanical, flammability, chemical properties, electrical properties, hygiene, radioactivity).
In 2009 Directive 2009/48/EC came into force revising the old toy safety Directive. This new Directive improves virtually all safety aspects and the existing rules for the marketing of toys that are produced in and imported into the EU with a view to reducing toy related accidents and achieving long-term health benefits.
The Directive is underpinned by the EN 71 and EN 62115 series of European standards which provide the technical details of how toys should meet the essential requirements. These standards are established by European standardisation organisations.
Toys complying with these harmonised standards are presumed to be in conformity with the essential safety requirements of the Directive.
Specifically relevant for this joint action were EN71-1:2005 (Safety of Toys – Part 1: Mechanical & Physical properties) which covers small parts in toys and EN71-3:1994 (Safety of Toys – Part 3: Migration of certain elements) which covers heavy metals in toys.
Enforcement of toys safety requirements is based on Regulation 765/2008/EC , which has the objective of removing the remaining obstacles to free circulation of products, and contains detailed rules on market surveillance to protect consumers from unsafe products, including imports from third countries.
Finally, the General Product Safety Directive (Directive 2001/95) established the RAPEX system under which toys found to pose a serious risk to the health and safety of consumers are notified to the Commission by the Member States. Once validated, these notifications are sent to the other countries allowing them to take measures against the same products if these are found on their national markets. (See IP/10/434 and Memo/10/130 for more information about the RAPEX system)
Who is responsible for the safety of toys on the EU market? Producers and importers have the prime responsibility to ensure that toys they place on the market are safe. Distributors and retailers are also required to act with due care to ensure that products they supply to consumers are safe.
Has industry co-operated in this project? Industry, through their European association Toy Industries of Europe, has actively contributed to the project by participating in meetings and giving advice on toy safety aspects throughout the project.
What action can the Commission take to reduce the number of unsafe toys on the EU market? Enforcement of EU toy (and other consumer products) safety rules is the responsibility of the Member States, which for this purpose have established market surveillance authorities that check compliance with the applicable requirements.
However, the European Commission assists the Member State authorities in their activities to survey and monitor the market, for example through financial support for joint surveillance actions and by providing training.
What can parents do?
Obviously, parents play an important role in buying appropriate toys and supervising their children while playing. To ensure the best experience for our children keep in mind the following Toy Safety Tips:
When choosing a toy:
Always buy toys from trustworthy shops and online outlets.
Read all warnings and instructions – never buy toys that do NOT carry a CE mark
Choose toys suitable for the child's age, abilities and skill level. Never buy a toy bearing this warning for a child under 3 years of age.
Do not buy toys with small detachable parts for children under 3 years of age.
After buying a toy:
Follow carefully the instructions for proper toy assembly and use.
Keep an eye on children as they play.
Make sure that all toys are played with as intended and are suitable for the age and abilities of the child.
Check toys from time to time for health and safety risks.
Remove all packaging to avoid the risk of suffocation.
Always keep the instructions.
Teach your children to put away their toys.
Report any safety problem with a toy to the retailer or manufacturer.
Furthermore, parents can consult the on-line database of RAPEX notifications to find the latest information about toys that have been found to be unsafe at:
Annex : List of authorities participating in the joint action
Bulgaria: State Agency for Metrological and Technical Surveillance
Czech Republic: Ministry of Health – National Institute of Public Health
Denmark: Danish Safety Technology Authority
Estonia: Consumer Protection Board
France: Direction General de la Concurrence, de la Consommation
et de la Répression des Fraudes
Germany: Labour Inspectorate of the District Government of Central
Labour Inspectorate of the District Government of Hesse
Greece: General Secretariat for Consumer Affairs
Italy: Ministry of Health, Department of Prevention and
Latvia: Consumer Rights Protection Centre
Lithuania: State Non food Products Inspectorate
The Netherlands: Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority
Norway: Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning
State Pollution Control Agency
Slovak Republic: Trade Inspection