Fragrances: Allergy hazard from children's toys

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Fragrances in children's toys: the federal authority warns of an allergy hazard and demands stricter limit values

The limits for chemical fragrances in children's products such as dolls and teddy bears are too high, reports the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) in Berlin. According to the experts, allergies can be triggered by the substances contained in children's toys. The children suffer from the disease inflicted for a lifetime.

The fragrances in dolls and teddies not only irritate the senses but also the skin and mucous membranes. They are intended to encourage the purchase of toys and expose the children to considerable health risks. According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, the limit values ​​have been significantly exceeded. The experts are asking toy manufacturers to reduce the amount of substances they contain. At the EU level, finite new limit values ​​would have to be created, the BfR demanded again.

In every child's room of boys and girls there are cuddly toys or children's cars. They serve as a transition object, help you fall asleep, comfort you when you have a cold or longing or are just used to play. Most parents are startled by the current risk warning from the BfR. Cuddly toys, children's cars, dolls, board games or teddy bears can contain practically unnecessary fragrance ingredients that can cause so-called contact allergies in some of the children playing. The allergies persist in the affected children for a lifetime, as a spokesman for the Risk Institute said.

Prohibition of chemical substances in toys for toddlers
To ensure that children are not exposed to health risks, toys that are declared for children under three years of age should not contain any fragrances. “Especially in the first three years of life, young children explore the world with all their senses. They look with their eyes, feel with their hands and taste with their mouths, ”reports Gritli Bertram, social worker from Hanover. The children put everything they can get their hands in their mouths. Although the Federal Institute demands a total ban on artificial fragrances in toys for toddlers, no corresponding legal regulations have been provided so far. Therefore, according to the educator, parents should "rather use toys with the organic seal, then no chemicals may be used".

According to BfR risk assessors, toys for older children may very well contain fragrances. However, the prescribed limit of 100 milligrams per kilo of material for certain substances was "much too high". Therefore, the responsible Commission of the European Union (EU) should strive for a limit of 10 milligrams per kilo of toys, so the recommendation of the BfR. The German federal authority had already given this advice to the EU in April 2010. To date, however, the legal regulations have not changed, the experts murine. Therefore, you are now betting on the second push.

2500 different artificial fragrances in toys
The toy manufacturers use a total of 2500 different fragrances. Some of these substances can cause skin allergies if they come into contact with one another. The allergies are clearly recognizable through symptoms such as itching, redness, blisters and inflammation. "The children suffer from allergy for a lifetime," the BfR warning. Because with today's knowledge the chronic illness is not curable. Only the symptoms as such can be treated, but not the cause. The EU directive for toys therefore already prohibits 55 allergenic substances. Limit values ​​apply to eleven other allergy fragrances. For the latter, the BfR wants to achieve a complete ban on toddler toys and see the limit for larger children reduced tenfold.

Fragrance ingredients should encourage buying
Most fragrances are made artificially from chemicals. For the toys, they have no practical purpose other than to encourage the viewer to buy, says Miriam Ewald, spokeswoman for the BfR. In the course of a study by Danish scientists, the testers found that seven out of ten children's toys contain fragrances. The chemicals are usually hidden in erasers, highlighters, paper, soap bubbles or balls. The ingredients of the mixtures reached between 32 and 5500 milligrams per kilogram of children's toys. Some of the researchers found highly allergenic fragrance mixtures in 2006, according to Ewald.

The "more often and more intensively a child comes into contact with allergenic substances, the higher the likelihood that a contact allergy will develop," explains the BfR spokeswoman. The earlier the children come into contact with the fabrics, "the more problematic it is." Doctors assume that at least two percent of all children who come into contact with the substances mentioned develop a lifelong allergy. It is even twelve percent of children who are already being treated in clinics for skin diseases.

Nickel directive could be implemented
However, the experts at the Risk Institute were able to achieve a small success. In April 2010, they requested guidelines for nickel in toys. This recommendation was implemented at EU level. Although there was no complete ban, at least the required limit values ​​were reached. Nickel can be found in children's jewelry and metal patches on clothing items. Ten percent of children react to contact with a nickel allergy. BfR was unable to provide any information as to whether the limit values ​​led to lower contact allergies in practice and whether the industry complied with the limit guidelines. "Rather rely on natural toys", is the conclusion of Bertram. (sb)

Read on:
Allergies from fragrances in children's toys
Children's perfume contains allergy substances
Health hazard from children's toys
Dangerous pollutants in children's toys
Children's clothing often contains pollutants

Image: Helene Souza /

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