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Old everyday toys found to have multiple toxins say researchers

A new study by researchers from the University of Plymouth has found toxic compounds in old toys. Hundreds of old second-hand children toys have been assessed by UK researchers who say that testing has never been done on old-model toys and that their findings reveal multiple toxic compounds in old everyday toys.

Previous research tells us that metals and metalliods can negatively impact health, even at low doses. These metal-like elements are particularity dangerous for children since their metabolism runs at a higher rate. The risk is further increased when children put these types of toys in their mouth.

Over the years, not a lot of research has gone into testing second-hand toys since new laws focus primarily on the manufacturing of new products, so Dr. Andrew Turner and colleagues from the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom began testing old-model toys.

The toys tested are the same found in places such as doctor offices, yard sales and other public places like nurseries and ranged from plastic dinosaurs to figurines, trains and cars and even puzzle pieces. The team wanted to test how much of the compound come from the toys when chewed or ingested.

They tested 200 toy items they found at thrift stores, nurseries and homes from around Southwest England. As in previous studies, the researchers used X-ray fluorescence to examine the chemistry of the toys. They also carried out tests that simulated how the toys might respond when swallowed.

According to Dr. Turner, the study was the “first systematic investigation of hazardous elements in second-hand plastic toys in the U.K.”

In many of the tested items, researchers found traces of elements including barium, chromium, cadmium, selenium, lead and antimony, which is used to give a shiny coating. They also noted that in a test where hydrochloric acid was introduced, similar to the gastric acids found in the human stomach, some of those old toys released cadmium, bromine and lead.

These chemicals were found mainly in toys that were red, black and yellow, adding that over time, all of the elements can be toxic to children.

Their findings were published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.