Toys

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Changed on: 11.06.2019
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Child playing with wooden cubes and colorful plastic cubes.

According to the 2011 Regulation on Toys, toys are products that are exclusively or non-exclusively made or intended for the use of children under the age of 14 for the purposes of play. Children are a consumer group that must be protected on a general level and, in particular, children under the age of 3. Regular examinations of toys carried out by AGES show that the majority are safe, but that there are always products on the market that might pose a risk to the health of children.

As a result, the scope of examinations and tests on toys at the AGES Institute for Food Safety Linz (LSL) is very extensive: toys are tested for mechanical and physical properties and flammability, the chemical properties of specific elements (lead, cadmium, mercury, chrome etc.), organotin migration and tests for plasticisers – in particular, banned phthalates, tests for banned azo dyes and pigments and many more substances.  Sensory tests, tests for saliva and perspiration resistance and checks for correct labelling are also within the range of the examinations undertaken.

Tips

Toys should be childproof

Every fifth toy sample has safety deficiencies. Frequent problem zones are easily detachable small parts, toy mobile phones that are too loud or plastic pistols that shoot too hard. Bacteria in soap bubble solutions also occur again and again or technical defects in vehicles such as scooters. Toys and children's costumes must also not be easily flammable. Another reason for complaint is the use of prohibited plasticizers (phthalates), which are often contained in the heads of cheap fashion dolls. In principle, only buy products with the CE mark. Results of our tests, see investigations.

Spielzeug

Babies and toddlers like to put everything in their mouths. When buying, age recommendations such as "0M+" must be observed. Toys marked "not suitable for children under the age of three" must not be within reach of the little ones. Testing is carried out in the AGES laboratory: Bite rings must be dense and strong. Toys must also not release chemicals in quantities that pose a health risk, even if they are sucked away for hours.

Spielzeug

A lot of toys are too loud. For acoustic toys the AGES checks the sound pressure level. It is best to hold sounding toys briefly to your ear when you buy them in order to see whether the sounds and melodies are perceived as unpleasantly loud. If this is not possible, you should briefly test toy mobile phones at home before leaving these products for your child to play with.

Spielzeug

Arrow and bow sets or child pistols can be dangerous. In the past, bullet toys on fairground stalls in particular have often shown deficiencies in AGES investigations. Before leaving such toys to children, it is best to test them yourself: Do the ears roar, do the "shooting points" hurt, does the suction cup come loose? If so, the toy is not suitable for a child.

Spielzeug

If older children are already playing with small toys (e.g. puzzles or pearls), caregivers must ensure that the younger children do not have access to them. When buying toys, the note "not suitable for children under the age of 3" is an important note. In the case of such toys, the AGES checks that no small parts are contained or detachable which could be swallowed by children under 3 years of age.

  1. Only buy toys that carry the “CE” mark. The manufacturer guarantees that the toy meets the requirements set out in the Toy Safety Regulation when using this mark.
  2. Always note the warnings and instructions and, in particular, the recommended age. The symbol (0-3), for instance, indicates that the toy is not suitable for children under the age of 3. Additionally, the label must state why this is so (risk of suffocation because of small parts, risk of strangulation because of cords, etc.).
  3. Choose the toy in line with the child’s age and skills – toys that are too simple are boring, toys that are too sophisticated create frustration.
  4. 4. Test toys for children under the age of 3 for any detachable parts. Pull the eyes on a cuddly toy, for example, before you hand it to the child to play with. Small children like to put things into their mouths and, thus, small parts that can be detached easily from the toy represent a suffocation risk.  
  5. 5. Do not extend the cords of pulling toys. This could pose a strangulation risk in extreme instances.  
  6. Put toy mobile phones to your ear – if you find the sounds and melodies uncomfortably loud, they could also be dangerous for your child. 
  7. Does your child like to play with bows and arrows or similar toys? Many such toy sets contain arrows with suction cups. Check whether these suction cups are fixed tightly to the arrows. Suction cups that can be taken off easily could pose a suffocation risk, if a child gets them in his or her mouth. The arrow can be taken out, but the suction cup could remain stuck in the child’s throat. 
  8. Inflatable water toys are great fun for children and encourage them to move around. However, always keep in mind that they are toys and not swimming aids. 
  9. Plastic toys exposed to light and weather age faster. Always check whether your child’s sand or beach toys are still in order, for instance. Old, brittle plastic can break easily and leave sharp edges that could cause injuries. Additionally, smaller parts can break off representing a suffocation risk. 
  10. Make sure children do not play with unsuitable toys that belong to their older siblings and never forget about proper supervision.

Examinations

Approximately 500 toy samples are examined annually at the LSL. It has been found that the physical and mechanical properties of toys in particular can pose an acute risk to children's health. With the help of special actions, certain toys are tested in a targeted manner:

Focus action "Carnival costumes - azo dyes and flammability".

Focus action "Soap bubbles and finger paints".

 

2012201320142015201620172018
Number of samples tested563429445429515550563
  - of which not objected to in %63,2 %79,2 %77,5 %76,2 %63,1 %44,5 %43,7 %
  - of which objected to in %36,8 %21,8 %22,5 %23,8 %36,9 %55,5 %56,3 %
grounds for complaint



safety deficiencies*16,0 %6,3%13,0 %14,2 %21,9 %13,3 %22,7 %
  - of which harmful to health4,4 %1,4 %3,2 %2,3 %3,9 %3,1 %5,3 %
 - thereof phthalates4,3 %0,5 %2,0 %4,7 %6,2 %3,5 %6,6 %
Marking deficiencies**
30,5 %18,2 %16,6 %17,5 %28,0 %26,9 %25,9 %
Formal defects***10,9 %44,7 %41,6 %

*safety deficiencies, e.g. excessive noise in toys, excessive kinetic energy (e.g. in projectile toys), bacterial contamination (e.g. contaminated bubble solutions), technical deficiencies (e.g. detachable parts), etc.
**Toy ordinance, toy identification ordinance, LMIV, misleading
***EC Declaration of Conformity, Traceability

Since it is known that babies and toddlers like to put everything in their mouths, toys for children under the age of 3, for example, must not contain any small parts that can be swallowed and pose a suffocation risk. According to EN 71 (European Standard "Safety of Toys"), such toys and detachable parts of toys must not fit into a specially standardised small parts test cylinder based on a child's throat. Toys for children under the age of 3 must meet many other special requirements, all of which are routinely checked. Cords may only have a certain length so that small children cannot strangle themselves with them, the filling of cuddly toys must not have any parts that could present a risk of injury, cooling bite-rings must be sufficiently tight and firm so that they cannot be bitten on or through by the small ones, the toy must not contain any small balls or suction cups, which in turn could present a risk of suffocation, and much more.

Toys for children from the age of 3 must also meet many different requirements, depending of course on the respective toy category, in order to be considered safe. Toys for slightly older children may contain small parts, but must be accompanied by a clear and appropriate indication that the toy is not suitable for children under the age of three, together with a brief indication of the hazards giving rise to this restriction. In the case of projectile toys (e.g. toy pistols), it shall be examined whether the toy complies with the kinetic energy limits. If this energy is too high, there is a risk of injury. Thus it can go in the wahrsten sense of the word in´s eye if children shoot the small plastic balls one on the other while playing. In the case of bullet toys with suction cup arrows, it is particularly important to check that the suction cups are attached firmly enough, as easily detached suction cups pose a suffocation hazard.

Furthermore, the sound pressure level of acoustic toys - such as toy mobile phones - is checked, as toys that are too loud can cause hearing damage. Toys intended to carry the child's weight - such as toy bicycles and scooters - are tested for strength and construction. Among other things, these must be designed in such a way that children cannot squeeze their fingers between moving parts when playing. Compliance with requirements that apply generally, i.e. to all toys, is also monitored. This includes, for example, that toys must not have sharp edges or tips that could pose a risk of injury.

In addition to checking the physical and chemical properties, flammability tests are also carried out. For example, carnival costumes for children must either not be flammable or they may only burn so slowly that in an emergency, i.e. when the costume has caught fire, sufficient time is available to undress without the child being exposed to the risk of burns.

Consumers are informed in the media about such dangerous toys by appropriate product warnings. If toys pose a serious risk and other Member States may also be affected, a Europe-wide notification is made in the so-called RAPEX system (Rapid Exchange of Information System - the EU's rapid alert system for all dangerous consumer goods, with the exception of food, medicines and medical devices).
See Service Product Warnings.

 

 

Regulation

Toys are objects of use and, thus, are subject to the Austrian Food Safety and Consumer Protection Act (LMSVG). The LMSVG states that it is prohibited to place items on the market that are harmful to human health or are not suited for their intended use or do not conform with the special regulations.

Toys are regulated in detail in Spielzeugverordnung 2011 (Toy Safety Regulation 2011), which is based on the European Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EG. According to Toy Safety Regulation 2011, toys may only be placed on the market if they meet the general safety requirements, according to which they must not endanger the safety or health of the user or third parties when used for their intended or foreseen purposes in line with typical children’s behaviour. Moreover, toys must be labelled with the appropriate warnings and instructions and must carry the “CE marking”. The harmonised European Standards contain many detailed requirements, while the Toy Safety Regulation provides the framework background. For toys, this is mainly EN 71 “Safety of Toys”. This standard consists of parts 1 to 14 at present. Parts 1 to 3 are relevant for all toys. Part 1 deals with physical and mechanical properties, part 2 with flammability and part 3 with the migration of certain elements. Other parts address specific toys, for example, such as part 7, which deals with finger paint.

In terms of chemical requirements, there are also limits in the European Regulation on Chemicals REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), in addition to those defined in the Toy Safety Regulation (such as migration limits for elements, limits for allergenic fragrances and nitrosamines).  There are also defined limits for phthalates, azo dyes and pigments, benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Requirements in terms of the labelling of toys are defined in the Spielzeugkennzeichnungs-verordnung (Toy Labelling Regulation).
Anforderungen hinsichtlich der Kennzeichnung von Spielzeug sind insbesondere in der Spielzeugkennzeichnungsverordnung festgelegt.

Fairground Toys

AGES carries out regular campaigns on behalf of the Health Ministry on the subject of “Examinations of Cheap Toys from Funfairs”, which provide an alarming picture. In 2008, 75 percent of the samples taken had shortcomings or were defective and 12 percent of the samples taken exposed children to such serious risk that they were classed as “damaging to health”.  In 2010, the situation was still similar with 50 percent of all the samples classed as faulty and 15 percent classed as “damaging to health”. There was a slight improvement in 2012, with 57 percent of all the samples taken classed as faulty and 7 percent as “damaging to health”. The 2014 campaign was carried out until the end of the year to collect samples from Christmas markets. A slight improvement is expected compared to previous years’ results. 

Where are the dangers and how can parents protect their children?

It has been shown that there are two categories of toys that have especially high levels of potential risk: one group is toys for children under the age of 3. The second toy category that always repeatedly leads to complaints is projectiles.

Toys for children under the age of 3: Children in this age group put everything in their mouths and lick, suck and bite them. Some of the products on display at funfairs have already had a long shelf life and are often displayed in the open and, thus, are exposed to UV rays. The properties of plastics change in such conditions and it becomes brittle. This increases the probability of small parts breaking off the toy and being swallowed.   

Projectile toys and toy weapons: Many of the products – often called “soft guns” – are not recommended for children under the age of 18 because of their high levels of kinetic energy. This information on the packaging is, however, often ignored and the products are sold to children under the age of 14. In 2013, the Soft Air Gun Regulation (Softairwaffenverordnung) was adopted forbidding the sale of soft air weapons or soft guns to persons under the age of 18 at markets and similar events.   

Please note the tips given on toy safety.

Further information on children’s toys can be found on the homepage of the Federal Ministry of Health, at VerbraucherInnengesundheit/Spielzeug.

Bullet Toy

Bullet Toy

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Projectile toy with plastic balls and suction cup projectiles
Projectile toy with plastic balls and suction cup projectiles

In recent years, the AGES Institute for Food Safety Linz (LSL) has investigated various types of bullet toys, both in routine plan samples and especially in the context of special campaigns. Particularly in 2010 and 2011, the complaint rate for this toy category was alarmingly high (approx. 30 percent of the samples showed defects, approx. 10 percent showed such serious defects that an assessment as "harmful to health" was made). Although the situation improved significantly in 2013 and 2014, there are still a few bullet toys on the market that do not meet the requirements of the Toy Ordinance or the EN 71 standard ("Safety of Toys").
 
Depending on the type of projectile used and the type of toy, the following hazards were identified:

  • external injuries due to excessive kinetic energy
  • suffocation due to easily removable suction cups
  • hearing damage due to excessive sound pressure level

Especially in toy pistols, which use the typical small plastic balls as ammunition, specimens with much too high kinetic energy have been found again and again.

There is a risk of external injury if children, intentionally or unintentionally, shoot at each other while playing. The eyes are particularly at risk. Since it can happen that children shoot projectiles into each other's mouths while playing, suction cup projectiles must have a certain minimum length so that they can easily be pulled out of the pharynx in such a case. It is just as important that the suction cups cannot be easily removed from such bullets. Otherwise there is a danger that the suction cup will remain in the throat when the bullet is pulled out, thus posing a suffocation hazard. It goes without saying that toys have to bang to shoot. In some cases, however, the sound level of these toys is so high that children's hearing can be endangered.

There has been a decline in the number of complaints, particularly regarding the "Kugerl pistols". The 2013 Soft Air Weapons Ordinance, which prohibits the sale of soft air weapons, so-called soft guns, to persons under the age of 18 and at markets and similar events, seems to be taking effect. Previously, such softguns were sold without restriction to children as "normal toys", especially at fairgrounds. However, these soft guns often had an extremely high kinetic energy.

Parents and all supervisors can therefore only be advised to carry out a few self-tests before leaving the toy to a child: Let it pop once, let it shoot you consciously once (e.g. at the forearm), pull at the suction cup: Do your ears roar, does the "bullet hole" hurt, does the suction cup come loose? If so, the toy is not suitable for your child.

 

 

Information für Hersteller

Information for Manufacturers

A producer is a natural or legal person that produces a toy or allows it to be developed or made and the toy is sold on the market under the producer’s name or a specific brand.

Manufacturer’s Obligations

  • Guarantee that the toy is safe (that it complies with the Toy Regulation of 2011) 
  • Conduct safety and conformity Evaluations 
  • Produce and store technical documentation (10 years)
  • Display and store  EC Conformity Declaration (10 years) 
  • Affix CE mark 
  • Ensure conformity for mass production 
  • Take all necessary samples and conduct all necessary tests 
  • Detail all complaints, non-conforming products and producer recalls 
  • Affix all identification marks 
  • Add product instructions and safety Information 
  • Have all information and documentation available for authorities making reasoned requests 
  • Cooperate with authorities to prevent hazards

Bringing a Product to Market

The following steps must be followed when placing a new toy on the market, regardless of the amounts in which it should be sold:

  • Find out if the product is actually a toy (some toys fall into a grey area – e.g. scooters that can be toys or sports equipment) 
  • Establish which age group the toy is appropriate for. For toys for children under the age of 3 such as baby rattles, teething rings, soft toys etc. additional requirements may have to be taken into account in regards to physical properties 
  • Carry out safety tests – i.e. create a list of which chemical, physical/mechanical, electronic, flammability, hygiene and radioactive hazards could occur and how high the level of exposure could be. 

    For example, soft toys:
    • Chemical hazards: e.g. azo dye substances in materials, exposure level – high (intensive skin contact) 
    • Physical/mechanical hazards: e.g. removable small parts (sown-on eyes), exposure  level -- high 
    • Electronic hazards; none (there can be soft, cuddly toys that are battery driven and can make animal noises )
    • Flammability hazards: materials can catch fire, exposure – medium 
    • Hygiene hazards: materials can get dirty – medium 
    • Radioactive hazards: None 
  • The conformity evaluation required, i.e. the evidence that the toy complies with the requirements of the Toy Safety Regulation and the hazards identified are “under control”.   There are a number of options: normally, the manufacturer checks whether the toy meets the harmonised standards (this is an internal production control). The requirements for toys are detailed in EN 71 (“Safety of Toys”), which consists of parts 1 to 14. Part 1 deals with physical/mechanical properties and also contains special requirements for toys for children under the age of 3. If the producer does not follow these norms or the toy displays potential hazards not covered under the harmonised standards, then an EC Construction Plan examination must be carried out by a notified body.  

Tips for Small Companies: Information on Materials Collected from Suppliers

Norms can only be purchased. Laboratory tests for all hazards, especially those related to chemical properties, are costly. If using soft toy materials in different colours, each of these colours must be tested for azo dyes, heavy metals etc. It is, therefore, recommended that small firms get certification from their suppliers for all the materials used for such “simple” toys as soft, cuddly toys to prove that the company is following the Toy Safety Regulation of 2011 in regards to the chemical properties of their products. All materials must be taken into consideration here: not just the materials used, but also threads and fillings. Afterwards, the finished toy must be checked in line with EN71-1 (mechanical/physical properties) and BN 71-2 (flammability).    

If it can be proven that all requirements are fulfilled, then

  • Affix CE marks
  • Affix all other labelling elements (as required: warnings, instructions, name and contact details of producer, identification marks e.g. batch numbers) 
  • Print and store EC conformity declaration (how this show look can be found in Annex 3 of the Toy Regulation 2011) 
  • Print and store technical documentation (see Annex 4 of the Toy Regulation 2011)

Information and Examinations

The examples given are only examples and are not a full list of all possible procedures. The extent of the tests necessary depends on each toy individually. We would be happy to consult you, if you require more information. 

Toy examinations are carried out by AGES and other different institutions: List of Institutions. Contact our institute in Linz for further information. Meetings can be arranged on +43 50 555-41730 and Contact.

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