Test: Fidgets can contain problematic chemicals

26. okt 2021

Fidget toys are often used to keep children’s hands busy for a long time. However, some of these products contain a number of problematic chemicals.

fidgets.jpg

fidgets.jpg
Photo: The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

Fidget toys worry parents

Fidget, pop-its or anti-stress toy. This type of toy has many names. Common to them are that they can be squeezed, pulled, pressed or moved to keep the hands of the child activated. 

But we have received several inquiries from concerned parents about the popular toy that their children often see when they watch Tik Tok videos.

As a result, we have tested 21 different types of fidgets for the content of a number of problematic chemicals.

See the tested products in the Danish test (link to Danish page)

1 fidget contain a banned phthalate

12 out of 21 fidgets do not contain any of the problematic chemicals that we have tested for.

However, in the test a pea pod keychain from wish.com contain the phthalate DIBP in amounts above the legal limit.

DIBP is banned in toys and other products in the EU because the chemical is endocrine disrupting. For that reason we have reported the product to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency.

See all test from The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

Suspected carcinogenic PAH found in multiple products

In the test, 4 fidgets contain the PAH naphthalene which is suspected of being carcinogenic. 

In all 4 products the amount is above the German recommendation for toys that children are in skin contact with for a longer time.

Other carcinogenic PAHs are prohibited in toys. However, naphtalene is not one of them.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’ test methods

These 4 fidgets contain naphtalene:

  • Edamame keychain from Lightinthebox
  • Orange chicken from Chao Chao
  • Cute peanut-shaped popper from Bent
  • Bendable smiley man from ABC-leg

Pop-it toys contain problematic siloxanes

Pop-its is a type of toy where children can push small bubbles up and down on a plate made of silicon. In the test, the 3 pop-it toys all contain the siloxanes D4, D5 and D6. These siloxanes are problematic to the environmentally and are therefore listed on the EU’s official list of substances of very high concern (SVHC).

These chemicals can also be problematic for your health. D4 is classified as suspected of damaging the ability to reproduce. Both D4 and D5 are also suspected of being endocrine disrupters. The content of siloxanes in pop-it toys are legal and appears to be a typical residual content in silicone products.

We do not know if these chemicals migrate from the silicone when children play with them. The Danish Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of investigating this.

Even if the measured content is low, out of a precautionary substances of very high concern should not be present in toys. Children’s exposure to unwanted chemicals should be as low as possible.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals: More unwanted chemicals should be investigated and regulated:

“Toys can contain problematic chemicals. Therefore we should investigate and regulate more chemicals in toys. An example is the cyclic siloxanes that appear to be in many silicone products. Even if the content is low, we are concerned. There is a risk that these chemicals can migrate from the silicone, as children play with the toys. Even if one single toy does not pose a risk, the chemicals can contribute to children’s total exposure to unwanted chemicals. For that reason we appreciate that the Danish Environmental Protection Agency are in the process of investigating and assessing siloxanes in pop-it toys”.

Stine Müller, project manager, The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals.

How we tested

We have examined the content of a wide range of chemicals in 21 different fidgets.

The test contain the following fidgets:

  • Fidget pop-it toys made with silicone, 3 products
  • Soft liquid-filled balls, 6 products
  • Peas and beans that can be popped out of their pods, 3 products
  • Giant noodles, 1 product
  • Tangles, 1 product
  • Other types of fidget toys, 7 products

The products are primarily bought online.

We have tested the toys for the content of a wide range of problematic chemicals, which are:

  • Phthalates and other softeners
  • Flame retardants
  • PAH’s
  • Phenol compounds

Silicone pop-its are also examined for the content of cyclic siloxanes, which is cyclohexasiloxane (D4), cyclopentasiloxane (D5) and cyclotetrasiloxane (D6).

We have not tested the release of the chemicals from the products. The same goes for the soft liquid-filled balls where we have not tested the liquid-filled content.

The products vary a lot. The same goes for the materials that we do not always know exactly what is.

We have tested for a wide range of chemicals. Other chemicals than those we have tested for could also be relevant for the different products.

What we found

Products without problematic chemicals

12 out of 21 products do not contain problematic chemicals that we have tested for.

These 12 products are without the selected unwanted chemicals:

Lightinthebox:

  • Stress ball (rainbow with net) - without CE mark
  • Anti-stress squishy bold (rainbow colors) - without CE mark and the product has a powerful smell.

Dollarstore:

  • Wiggle jungle giraffe pen

Jumbo kids:

  • Ball with spikes (green/blue) – without CE mark

Bent:

  • Banana stress toy
  • Mermaid madness squeeze glitter ball - without CE mark
  • Anti-stress squeezy DNA ball (with colorful balls inside)

ABC leg:

  • Creeblers (pink/yellow/green/purple/blue/orange)
  • Glitter ball, blue

Wish.com:

  • Globbles sticky balls, 4 balls (blue, orange, green, white) - without CE mark
  • Giant noodles (Green, blue, purple) - without CE mark
  • Small figures (different shapes and colors) - without CE mark

One product contain banned phthalate

A pea pod keychain from wish.com contain the phthalate DIBP in concentrations above the Danish ban on phthalates in toys. The content of DIBP in toys are measured to 0,18%.

DIBP is one of the phthalates that has been shown to be endocrine disrupting in humans. Therefore the chemical is on the EU’s official list of unwanted chemicals.

Since the summer of 2020 the 4 phthalates DEHP, DBP, DIBP and BBP are banned in consumer products in the EU. These chemicals are also banned in toys.

Multiple products contain naphthalene

In the test, multiple products contain a high amount the PAH naphthalene which is suspected of being carcinogenic.

There a no rules for the content of naphthalene in toys. For the content of 8 other PAHs there is a limit in products which is in contact with the skin for a long amount of time.

In Germany there are recommendations for the content of naphthalene based on the German GS mark (Geprüft Sicherheit).

In all 4 products the content is above the recommended limit for naphthalene in toys that children touch for a long time.

These 4 products contain naphthalene:

  • Edamame keychain (green) - from Lightinthebox
  • Orange chicken- from Chao Chao
  • Cute peanut-shaped popper -  from Bent
  • Bendable smiley-man - from ABC-leg

The content in the 4 products is from 1,1 to 6,3 mg/kg.

Pop-it toys with low content of naphthalene

Cyclohexasiloxane (D4), cyclopentasiloxane (D5) and cyclotetrasiloxane (D6) are all problematic for the environment because they do not decompose. Therefore, they are on the EU’s official list of unwanted chemicals.

Moreover, cyclohexasiloxane (D4) is classified in the EU as suspected of damaging our fertility. Both D4 and D5 are suspected of being endocrine disrupters.

However, the content of D4, D5 and D6 are below the requirements of silicone in toys with the Nordic Ecolabel. The content is also below the limit value submitted in a proposal that will ban the use of the cyclic siloxanes in consumer products.

More of these chemicals are also allowed in certain types of cosmetics and care products. At this time, it looks like these types of unwanted chemicals are a typical residual content in silicone products.

We do not know if these chemicals migrate from the silicone when children play with them. The Danish Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of investigating this.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals are keeping an eye on the investigation and we will update our conclusions with new knowledge on the subject.

These 3 tested pop-it toys of silicone contain problematic cyclic siloxanes:

  • Push bubble fidget toy (pop-it), purple – from Lightinthebox
  • Bubble pops (Pop-it), turquoise  – from Jumbo kids
  • Pop it Bubble, rainbow sky - from Bent

When it comes to the content of siloxanes, the result of the 3 tested products are very similar.

The content of D4 is between 27 and 60 mg/kg and the content of the other siloxanes (D5, D6, D7, D8 and D9) is between 280 and 550 mg/kg.

Content of phenol in 1 product

One of the tested products contain phenol, which is classified as suspected of being carcinogenic in the EU. The products is Ho tangle (black, green and red twister) from Chao Chao.

The release of phenol is limited in toys in the EU. However, we have not measured the release of the chemical in the toy. Only the content. Therefore, we do not know how much phenol is released when children play with the toy.

However, the content is above the limit that applies for the content in products with the brand Oekotex Tiltro for textiles. And the content of suspected carcinogenic chemicals are generally unwanted in toys and products for children.

Smell

Some products have a chemical smell. For example one of the soft balls from Lightinthebox.

There is not necessarily a connection between the smell and unwanted chemicals. However, we always recommend airing the toy for a few days if it has a chemical smell.

If the smell continues, we encourage you to contact the dealer and return the product.

CE mark

Toys have to have a CE mark to be legally sold in the EU. But 10 products in the test do not have a CE mark.

No products from Lightinthebox and wish.com have a CE mark. Some toys from Chao Chao and Bent are also missing the mark.

Always check the labeling of the products when you buy or receive them.

If a products is without a CE mark, name or other kind of information to identify the company, we recommend you do not buy it or return it.

However, the CE mark is no guarantee that the product complies with the rules for toys. This we have seen before in a test of fidgets spinners.

It is solely the manufacturer's way of showing the authorities that the product complies with the law for toys in the EU.

What the companies say

BENT
"We are pleased that 3 of our products live up til your expectations and only 2 of the products do not. However, we do not believe that it is okay to ‘expose’ some products as long as they comply with EU legislation. We can only abide by the rules laid down and comply with the requirements set by the EU. In the end, it is basically a political question whether rules and limit values need to be changed."

ABC-leg
”We have contacted the German manufacturer of the pliable smiley man and submitted your test to them. We are waiting for their response to the test results.”

Pop-it silicone molds must not be used for food

Have you encountered pop-it fidgets used to bake cake or make chocolate in? Perhaps on Tik Tok?

We strongly advise against using fidgets for food. Fidget toys can release unwanted chemicals in the food after baking.

Special rules apply to materials that are in contact with food to limit the release of problematic chemicals into the food.

Pop-its made by silicone are toys and not meant for food. Therefore, the manufacturer has not tested whether or not they are safe to use in contact with food at high temperatures.

The Danish Environmental Protection Agency are investigating toys made by silicone

Problematic siloxanes – or silicone chemicals – can be environmentally damaging and pose a health risk. The silicone chemical D4 is also environmentally damaging and classified in the EU as suspected of damaging our fertility.

However, we do not know enough about these problematic siloxanes and if the chemicals migrate from the silicone in toys, when children play with them.

The Danish Environmental Protection Agency are investigating the content and release of the silicone chemical cyclohexasiloxane (D4) from silicone products such as pop-it toys.

The results of the investigation have not yet been released. If the results changes the current view of the content of siloxanes in toys, we at the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals will update our conclusions.