Chemicals in Plastic Toys May Cause Health Risks for Children: Study

More than 120 chemical substances that are commonly used in children’s plastic toys may pose serious health risks, and in some cases could cause cancer, according to the findings of a new study.

Researchers from Denmark and the United States looked at 419 chemicals found in plastic used in children’s toys, and indicate that at least 126 of them were “chemicals of concern” (CoCs), which could cause cancer or other complications.

In findings published in the journal Environmental International, researchers from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and the University of Michigan, with help from the United Nations Environment Programme, looked at chemicals of concern (C0Cs) in hard, soft and foam plastics used in children’s toys amid growing concerns over a lack of regulations and differing labeling requirements worldwide.

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The list of chemicals of concern included phthalates, plasticizers, brominated flame retardants and fragrances, which in many cases are already known to pose health risks.

Researchers used different types of risk screenings to find out how much of the chemicals were making their way to receptors in the human respiratory tract. For instance, they tested for how ingestion, inhalation, and dermal (skin) contact affect how they enter and interact with a child’s body. The researchers also studied how the chemicals transfer from dermal to ingestion through oral contact then further into inhalation.

According to the findings, plasticizers from soft plastic materials carried the highest health risks, with the substances making up 31 of the 126 identified chemicals of concern.

“Our results indicate that a relevant amount of chemicals used in plastic toy materials may pose a non-negligible health risk to children, calling for more refined investigations and more human- and eco-friendly alternatives,” the researchers wrote. “The 126 chemicals identified as CoCs were compared with other existing regulatory prioritization lists. While some of our chemicals appear in other lists, we also identified additional priority chemicals that are not yet covered elsewhere and thus require further attention.”

The researchers noted manufacturers are not required to provide the chemical content of toys, meaning neither parents, nor scientists or regulators, often have a full idea of what is in them. Researchers in this latest study had to rely on chemical testing for that data, gleaned from 25 different peer-reviewed studies.

Until such data is improved, researchers recommend one way parents can regulate child exposures to potentially harmful chemicals is to control how many plastic toys come into the home each year.


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