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The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has warned parents to beware of the increasing quantities of counterfeit toys being sold this Christmas, after tests revealed some contained harmful levels of chemicals.
If a toy is chewed or ingested, the chemical used to soften plastics can lead to an increased risk of cancer, asthma and fertility problems in later life.
Robert Chantry-Price, a lead officer for product safety at CTSI, said: “It is frightening to think that large quantities of phthalates are still being used in children's toys, especially when it can cause such serious long-term consequences to a person's health.
"Phthalates are carcinogenic, mutagenic and can cause reproductive problems but, despite legislation to the contrary, significant amounts of these substances can be found in a wide range of toys and child care products.
"If these toys fall into the hands of very young children or babies, it's more likely they will chew on the plastic and consume the chemicals.”
Most recently, counterfeit ‘Frozen’ dolls and Maleficent Disney figures have been seized by Warwickshire trading standards as they were found to contain 18 times the legal limit of phthalates.
These popular, often imported toys are the latest counterfeit products found to contain high quantities of phthalates, including: dolls, swimming goggles, fancy dress make up and false nails, with loom bands over 50 per cent the legal limit of phthalates.
The use of phthalates is tightly restricted from use in toys across Europe. Toy manufacturers and products must contain no more than 0.1 per cent.
Previous research has revealed that the UK loses £174 million to counterfeit toys and games each year.
Mr Chantry-Price added: “Trading standards services are continuously working to tackle the issue but it is vital consumers remain vigilant too.
"Parents should be cautious when buying toys this Christmas and not fall for the first deal they see. "Make sure to buy from reputable shops, beware of products that are drastically cheaper and look at the packaging for the distributor's details and a CE mark.”
The National Trading Standards Safety at Ports and Borders Teams prevented 2,582,692 unsafe and non-compliant items from entering the market in 2014/15, a total value of £79,546,900. This included items such as phone chargers, toys, beauty products and mechanical equipment.