Toxic chemicals in toys

Children’s toys made from recycled plastic contain toxic flame retardant chemicals OctaBDE, DecaBDE and HBCD. This was found in a newly published survey of the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) into products from 26 different countries, including the Netherlands.

High concentrations of the toxic chemicals were found, among others, in Rubik’s cubes. 90% of the  examined cubes contained OctaBDE and/or DecaBDE. These poisonous chemicals end up in toys when casings of electronic equipment are used in the recycling process.

The chemicals are hazardous for the public health, especially children. They can harm the nervous system, human hormone system and reproductive system and create adverse effects on children’s brain development. The use of toxic flame retardants is prohibited in the EU. However, plastic recycling often takes place in African or Asian countries, where the rules on these chemicals are less strict. Therefore, the chemicals end up back in the chain.

IPEN’s report recommends that products made from recycled plastic should not be allowed to contain high concentrations of flame retardants. The casings of electronics should be removed before recycling and there should be stronger international limits on hazardous chemicals. The problem will soon be discussed at a meeting with regard to the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants.