12 August 2014

Imitation cigarette practical joke toys have been found to contain excessive amounts of potentially cancer-causing chemicals.

A survey of the toys carried out by Northamptonshire County Council’s trading standards service found that over 10% of the items sampled contained excessive amounts of restricted chemicals called phthalates.

What are phthalates?

Phthalates are toxic substances that may be associated with causing cancer, deformities in unborn babies and infertility in men and can be found in soft PVC which is commonly used in the manufacturing of toys.

Regulations restrict the presence of six different types phthalates in relation to parts of the toys that children could possibly put in their mouths.

In the worst instance, one of the toys was found to have over 20g per 100g of one of the restricted phthalates, this is 200 times the permitted legal maximum. The same item also contained 0.17g per 100g – 17 times the permitted maximum – of another restricted phthalate.

Next steps

The toys were purchased from high street shops within Northamptonshire and were submitted to a public analyst for testing.

Following the trading standards survey, the suppliers of the affected toys have withdrawn them from sale pending further investigation.

Cabinet member for Public Protection, Strategic Infrastructure & Economic Growth Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage said: “Although these practical joke toys are not aimed at children, it’s more than likely that children will pick them up and play with them.

“The levels of chemicals in the items tested were worryingly high, in one case 200 times the permitted legal maximum. I’m pleased that trading standards were able to take this action and ensure they have been removed from sale. If anyone has purchased these toys they should throw them away.”


Note to editors:

The Toys (Safety) Regulations 2011 require that toys, including the chemicals they contain, must not jeopardise the health of users or third parties when they are used in a foreseeable way, bearing in mind the behaviour of children.

The Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals Regulations 2008 (REACH) prohibits concentrations higher than 0.1% by mass of plasticised material in toy and childcare articles:

  • Bis (2 ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
  • Benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP)
  • And 0.1% by mass of plasticised material in toy and childcare articles, which can be placed in the mouth.
  • Di isononyl phthalate (DINP)
  • Di isodecyl phthalate (DIDP)
  • Di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP)

Examples of the other toys tested were found to contain between six to 12 times the permitted concentration of Di-isonyl phthalate. Two also contained twice the permitted concentration of Di isodecyl phthalate.