Unwanted substances in controllers for gaming consoles are not covered by toys legislation

16. dec 2015

Many children often play hour long sessions of Playstation, Nintendo Wii or Xbox with the controllers firmly clasped in their hands. However, the problematic chemicals in the controllers are not covered by the toys directive.


Contollers for Xbox, Playstation and Wii
Photo: Anne Beck Christensen

Risk of unwanted substances in controllers

The controllers for the video game console are clasped in a tight grip when children fight it out in games such as Fifa, Assassins Creed or Call of Duty. But while goals are scored and blood is spilled the children are at risk of being in skin contact with several problematic chemicals. These substances are under suspicion of having for example endocrine disrupting effects.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals sent 12 popular gaming controllers for laboratory testing in order to examine the content of unwanted chemicals in the popular joysticks for Playstation, Nintendo Wii and Xbox.

Two controllers receive the best mark for being without any problematic substances. Six receive an average mark because of traces of unwanted chemicals were found. Four controllers cannot be recommended by The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals. They get the lowest mark as they contain a number of chemicals which are suspected of being endocrine disrupting or cancer-causing: for example phthalates, flame retardants, chlorinated paraffins.

Endocrine disrupting substances are suspected of causing ailments such as declining semen quality in boys and early puberty in girls.

Children’s controllers are not covered by toys legislation

The content of problematic chemicals does not get the controllers in trouble with the law. They are fully legal, which the companies refer to when contacted by The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals.

However, in The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals project manager Christel Søgaard Kirkeby criticizes the fact that the controllers do not have to live up the standards which are set for toys.

In toys, which children can put in their mouths, a number of phthalates are banned. And even though most children do not suck on their controller, it is possible. This means, that if controllers were regarded as toys, they were not allowed the content of DINP, which was found in two of the controllers.

“It is absurd that video game consoles do not have to comply with the same standards as toys. We know that some children spend many hours daily in contact with the controller from their consoles. Thus, they are not protected against the unwanted chemicals that are allowed in the controllers,” she says.

She argues that a change in the legislation will not make all problematic chemicals disappear from the controllers but it would be a good first step. For example the manufacturers would be forced to conduct a safety assessment of the chemicals in the products.

Minister will assess whether a change of rules is needed

The Danish Minister for Environment and Food Eva Kjer Hansen refers to the fact that controllers are add-ons to electronics – in the same way that for example a mouse or a keyboard is add-ons to a computer. Consequently the controllers are covered by the rules for electronics and not toys.

Because the controllers are connected to a video game console they are not considered as having a ‘play value’ in themselves which is required by the EU criteria.

However, Eva Kjer Hansen will ask the Danish Environmental Protection Agency to contact The Danish Safety Technology Authority to clarify whether a change in the rules is needed.



For more information:

Mrs Christel Søgaard Kirkeby, csk@fbr.dk, +45 72 11 88 14