Handing down your favourite childhood toys to your little one is a lovely way to bond with your children. But new research suggests that they can contain dangerous plastics and metals, so you might want to keep them safely in the attic instead.
Old Barbie dolls, Fisher Price Little People figures and My Little Pony dolls from 1970s and 1980s were among the vintage plastic toys found to contain toxic heavy metals like lead, cadmium and even arsenic, which means that they wouldn’t comply with modern-day US and European safety laws.
An alarming 1 in 4 toys tested contained more than 10 times current safety limits for lead, a third of non-vinyl toys had more lead and cadmium than currently thought safe, and a fifth contained arsenic – a highly poisonous chemical. The highest concentrations of cadmium and lead were found in yellow toys with some had up to 70 times the current limit for lead.
“Vintage plastic toys frequently contain toxic heavy metals, particularly lead or cadmium, at concentrations exceeding current US and European limits,” US researchers from St Ambrose University, Iowa, wrote in the Journal of Environmental Health, according to the Independent. “Old toys are still in frequent use and thus present an exposure that may be overlooked for children.
“Given that vintage toys remain in widespread use, the results illuminate a potential source of heavy metal exposure.”
Toys over 25 years old are likely to have degraded over time and release small plastic particles as well as the toxic metals – and young children are particularly at risk from their effects. “The developing brains and bodies of infants and young children are especially vulnerable to toxic exposures because they absorb and retain lead more efficiently than adults,” the researchers said.
“They are exposed to contaminated dust by playing close to the floor, they chew and occasionally swallow items, and they put their hands into their mouths after handling many toys.”
The UK Toy Retailers Association recommends that parents check if individual toys are suitable before passing them on to their children. “Any vintage toy is not bound to and is not likely to comply with current regulations. If people are concerned about a toy, they would need to make their own investigations,” a spokesman said. “There is clearly no guarantee that a toy from 20 years ago is going to comply – indeed the majority of plastic toys or painted toys would not comply.”
Early this month Government safety inspectors found that 40 per cent of electronic toys on sale in the UK failed toxin safety tests.