Parents warned over potentially toxic loom bands

Tests show charms in uncertified toys may contain hormone-disrupting chemicals

Concerns have been raised about non-certified loom band products, which may contain high levels of phthalate chemicals.  Photograph: Tobias Hase/EPA

Concerns have been raised about non-certified loom band products, which may contain high levels of phthalate chemicals. Photograph: Tobias Hase/EPA

Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 19:50

Parents have been warned to check that popular loom band products are certified as safe by the EU amid concerns that some loom band accessories may be toxic.

Recent testing has found certain loom band charms contain high levels of phthalates, which are hormone-disrupting chemicals used as softeners in the production of plastics. They are also found in many cosmetics and personal care products.

The EU does not certify children’s toys where phthalates constitute more than 0.1 per cent of a toy’s weight.

According to toxicology experts, parents should ensure that loom band products are “CE” certified, which indicates compliance with EU phthalate limits.

The Birmingham Assay Office recently carried out phthalate testing on a variety of products, including loom band charms. Some of the charms analysed were composed of 50 per cent banned phthalate by weight against the permitted level of 0.1 per cent.

The Assay Office has not named the products in question, but a spokeswoman said they were tested prior to going on the market.

“A failure like this would prompt a total rejection of the shipment and so these particular samples will not have been put on sale,” she said. It is not known whether any of the charms were intended for sale in Ireland.

The spokeswoman emphasised that all reputable brands and high street retailers are aware of the EU requirements with regard to phthalates.

“However, our concern is that there is no way of knowing how many articles are on the market which may have come via less responsible suppliers and have not been tested,” she said.

Dr Craig Slattery and Dr Tara McMorrow, UCD lecturers in pharmacology and toxicology, said the results, if accurate, are a cause for concern.

They said the level of phthalates reported was “alarming”, especially in products designed for children. Phthalate exposure can have serious consequences.

“They are considered to be endocrine disrupting chemicals. This essentially means that once they are swallowed or absorbed they can mimic the actions of oestrogen in the body. This can potentially lead to infertility, decreased sperm counts, breast, prostate and ovarian cancers and allergies.”

The chemical, which is absorbed through the skin, can cause detrimental health effects if a person is exposed to significant levels over a period of time.

The experts added that “phthalates are so widely used in consumer products that exposure to these chemicals is practically unavoidable”. However, they recommend that consumers purchase toys which bear the appropriate “CE” logo.

“The original licensed product, the Rainbow Loom Band, has been extensively tested and is certified as being phthalate-free,” they said.