Info & recommendations about toys
According to the Toy Ordinance 2011, toys are products that are intended or designed, exclusively or not exclusively, to be used for play by children under the age of 14. In principle, children represent a consumer group that is very worthy of protection, especially children under the age of three. Our regular examinations of toys show that the majority of toys are safe, but that products are also repeatedly found on the market that can endanger children's health.
One in five toy samples has safety defects. Common problem areas are easily detachable small parts, toy cell phones that are too loud or plastic guns that shoot too hard. Bacteria in soap bubble solutions also occur again and again, or technical defects in vehicles such as scooters. Toys and children's costumes must also not be easily flammable. Another cause for complaint is the use of banned plasticizers (phthalates), which are often contained in the heads of cheap baby dolls, fashion dolls or inflatable water toys. As a matter of principle, only buy products with the CE mark.
Toys prefer childproof
The scope of examination and testing of toys at our Institute for Food Safety Linz (LSL) is therefore extensive: mechanical and physical properties and flammability, chemical properties such as migration of certain elements (lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium, etc.), migration of organotin compounds, testing for plasticizers, especially for banned phthalates, testing for banned azo dyes, and much more. Sensory testing, testing for saliva and perspiration fastness, and labeling verification are also part of the testing.
Our service and analytical services for toys and child care products, information on methods as well as the corresponding contact points can be found here.
Verification of physical and chemical properties
Toys for children under 3 years of age Since it is known that babies and toddlers like to put everything in their mouths, toys for children under 3 years of age, for example, must not contain any small parts that can be swallowed and pose a choking risk. According to EN 71 (European standard "Safety of Toys"), such toys and detachable parts of the toy must not fit into a specially standardized small parts test cylinder modeled on a child's mouth. Toys for children under age 3 must meet many other special requirements, all of which are routinely tested. Toys must also not emit chemicals in quantities that pose a health risk, even if they are sucked on for hours; cords must only be a certain length so that small children cannot strangle themselves with them; stuffing in stuffed animals must not be accessible or have parts that could pose a risk of injury; cooling bite rings must be appropriately tight and strong so that they cannot be bitten open or through by little ones The toy must not contain any small balls or suction cups that could pose a choking hazard, and much more.
Care should also be taken with toys that may appeal to children under the age of 3. Children under 3 years of age have an increased need to cuddle, respond to simply designed toys (including those with simple cause/effect functions) and objects that resemble them (e.g., baby, baby animal). These toys must meet the requirements of intended use - in these cases, for children under 3 years of age. Toys marked "not suitable for children under three years" must be kept out of the reach of young children. Toys for children 3 years and older Toys for children 3 years and older must meet many different requirements, also depending on the category of toy, to be considered safe. Toys for slightly older children may contain small parts, but must be labeled with a legible and appropriate notice stating that the toy is not suitable for children under three years of age, supplemented by a brief statement of the hazards that justify this restriction. If older children are already playing with small toys (e.g. puzzles or beads), caregivers must ensure that younger children do not have access to them. In the case of projectile toys (e.g. toy guns), tests are carried out to determine whether the toy complies with the kinetic energy limits. If this energy is too high, there is a risk of injury. So it can literally "go in the eye" when children shoot the small plastic pellets at each other while playing. In the case of projectile toys with suction cups, particular attention is paid to checking whether the suction cups are attached firmly enough, as easily detached suction cups pose a choking hazard.
Many toys are too loud. For toys with acoustic functions such as toy cell phones, wind toys (instrument replicas, whistles, etc.), guns with primers, rattles, we check the sound pressure level, as toys that are too loud can cause hearing damage. Toys that are intended to bear the child's weight - such as toy bicycles and scooters - are checked for their strength and construction. Among other things, these must be designed so that children cannot pinch their fingers between moving parts during play. Compliance with requirements that apply generally, i.e. to all toys, is also monitored. These include, for example, that toys must not have any sharp edges or points that could pose a risk of injury.
Checking for flammability
In addition to the testing of the physical and chemical properties, testing is also carried out in each case with regard to flammability. For example, carnival costumes for children must either be non-flammable or they must only burn so slowly that in an emergency, i.e. if the costume has caught fire, there is sufficient time to remove it without exposing the child to the risk of burns. This requirement also applies to toys that can be entered by the child (e.g., toy tents, pop-up houses). In addition to the above requirements, such products must also not have melting, burning fragments detached in the event of ignition.
Consumers are informed about dangerous toys via the media through appropriate product warnings. If toys pose a serious risk and other member states may also be affected, a Europe-wide notification is made in the so-called RAPEX system (Rapid Exchange of Information System - the EU's rapid alert system for all dangerous consumer goods, with the exception of food, medicines and medical devices). See our service on product warnings and product recalls.
Every year, we examine around 550 toy samples. It has been found that the physical and mechanical properties of the toys in particular can pose an acute risk to children's health. Focus actions are used to specifically examine certain toys:
- Focus action on the safety of buffer balls and similar products 2022
- Focus action on the safety of acoustic toys
- Focus on the safety of puffer balls and similar products 2021
- Focus on safety of baby dolls
- Focus on safety of baby dolls and baby doll sets
- Focus on the safety of walk-in toys
- Focus on safety of toy cosmetic sets
- Focus on safety of carnival costumes 2019
- Focus on the safety of carnival costumes 2021
- Focus action acoustic toys
- Focus on the safety of projectile toys
- Focus action on the ingredients of soothers
- Focus on safety of cheap toys from fairgrounds
- Focus on safety of toy scooters and toy buggies
- Focus on the safety of fashion dolls
- Focus on soothers (pacifiers)
- Focus on formamide in puzzle mats
- Focus action on soft toys
- Focus action on the safety of plush toy watches
- Focus action on plasticizers and PAHs in inflatable water toys
- Focus action carnival costumes - azo dyes and flammability
- Focus action soap bubbles and finger paints
- Focus action flammability of Halloween costumes
- Focus action contaminants in dyes and colored pencils
- Focus action water toys
|Number of samples tested
|- thereof not objected to in %
|- of which objected to in %
|Reasons for complaint
|- thereof harmful to health
|- thereof phthalates
*Safety defects e.g. toys too loud, kinetic energy too high (e.g. projectile toys), bacterial contamination (e.g. contaminated bubble solutions), technical defects (e.g. detachable parts) etc. **Toy regulation, toy labeling regulation, LMIV, misleading ***EG declaration of conformity, traceability.
- Always observe warnings and instructions for use, especially age recommendations such as: "0M+". The symbol (0-3) indicates, for example, that this toy is not suitable for children under 3 years of age. In addition, it must be stated why this is so (choking hazard due to small parts, strangulation hazard due to cord, etc.).
- Choose toys according to the child's age and abilities - toys that are too simple will cause boredom, toys that are too complicated will cause frustration.
- Test toys for children under the age of 3 to make sure that they do not contain any small detachable parts - for example, pull on the button eyes of a soft toy before giving it to your child to play with. As small children like to put everything in their mouths, small parts that can be easily detached from the toy can pose a choking hazard.
- Do not lengthen the cords of pull-along toys; in extreme cases, this can cause a strangulation hazard for small children.
- Hold toy mobile phones close to your ear - if you find the sounds and melodies unpleasantly loud, they may pose a danger to your child.
- Does your child like to play with bows and arrows or similar toys? Many such toy sets contain arrows with suction cups. Check that these suction cups are firmly attached to the arrow. Suction cups that are easily detachable can pose a choking hazard if children shoot such an arrow into their mouths. The dart is pulled out, but the suction cup can get stuck in the throat.
- Inflatable water toys are great fun for children and encourage movement. However, please always remember that these are toys and not swimming aids.
- Plastic toys that are exposed to light and the weather age more quickly. Therefore, always check whether your little one's sand toy, for example, is still in good condition. Parts of old, brittle plastic can break off with sharp edges and pose a risk of injury, but small parts can also come loose, which in turn can pose a choking hazard.
- Please ensure that small children do not play with toys that are unsuitable for older siblings and never forget the basic duty of supervision.
Button cells in electric toys such as barking dogs, brightly coloured bouncy balls or self-propelled toy cars can pose a great danger as children can easily put them in their mouths and swallow them. If the button cell gets stuck in the child's oesophagus, it reacts with the moist mucous membranes and current begins to flow, which can lead to severe internal burns. In the worst case, accidents with button cells can also be fatal.
In principle, there are strict requirements for the use of button cells in toys. The battery compartment must be screwed shut and the button cells must not be accessible to children.
For all products with button cells, not just toys, please make sure that the battery compartment is properly closed and that the button cells cannot get into the hands of children. When changing batteries, please ensure that both the used and any remaining new button cells are kept out of the reach of children.
If your child swallows a button cell, please contact a doctor or a hospital emergency room immediately.
In cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection (BMSGPK) and the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, we have produced the brochure "Gutes Spielzeug! Guide to choosing toys", in which you can find lots of practical tips.
You can also find lots of information on children's toys here.
To ensure the safety of children and to identify and mitigate risks that may be posed by carnival costumes, carnival costumes are examined at our Institute for Food Safety Linz, both during routine scheduled sampling and specifically during priority actions (SPA).
We check general requirements with regard to physical / mechanical properties (testing according to EN 71-1), this includes, for example, testing for sharp points, detachable small parts in costumes for children under three years of age (choking hazard), cords for children under three years of age (strangulation hazard) or also testing with regard to the thickness of packaging films.
An important aspect of carnival costumes is testing for flammability (testing according to EN 71-2). Carnival costumes may either not burn at all or, if they are flammable, they must be self-extinguishing (i.e. stop burning by themselves during the test) or may only have a certain maximum flame spread speed. In any case, carnival costumes must burn only slowly enough to allow sufficient time for removal in an emergency (when the costume has caught fire) without exposing the child to the risk of severe burns.
In addition, the costumes are tested for chemical properties such as azo dyes or flame retardants in textile materials, for certain elements(lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium, etc.) according to EN 71-3 or for plasticizers, especially for prohibited phthalates, if plastic parts are present.
|Total number of carnival costume rehearsals
|of which number of carnival costumes from special events
In the 2019 focus campaign for carnival costumes, the overall complaint rate was 53.5 per cent. Nine samples had safety deficiencies (increased flame propagation speed, sharp tips present, accessible filling material, packaging film too thin). Two samples were assessed as harmful to health due to a serious risk: a full-body overall and a headgear with a sewn-on beard burned too quickly and too long respectively. For both samples, the fact that they could not be removed quickly and without complications in an emergency was taken into account in the risk assessment (risk of suffocation).
Safety deficiencies due to flammability increased significantly in 2019 compared to previous years. Reasons for this include a now very large product range with elaborate designs (overalls, sewn-on hoods, padded garments, etc.) and the use of a wide variety of materials (deep-pile plush, jersey fabrics, feathers, ...). Complaints due to general safety deficiencies (without deficiencies due to flammability) and labelling deficiencies are within the scope of the 2017 focus campaign.
In the 2019 focus campaign on the flammability of Halloween costumes, the complaint rate was 5 per cent. Only one sample was objected to because the permitted burning time was significantly exceeded and more material burned than permitted.
The overall complaint rate for Halloween costumes was therefore significantly lower than the 2019 focus campaign for carnival costumes. This may be due in particular to the design of the costumes and the materials used. The carnival costumes were much more elaborate (in some cases full-body costumes), padded fabrics were used, in some cases also high-pile plush and individual parts were designed to look like plush animals. The Halloween costumes were much "simpler" in design, especially without padded material and high-pile material.
In the focus campaign for carnival costumes in 2021, the overall complaint rate was 21.3 per cent. However, only two samples showed safety deficiencies: the flame propagation speed was too high in one sample and the packaging film was too thin in one sample (risk of suffocation). Safety deficiencies have decreased compared to the previous campaign (2019). This could be due to the fact that samples were mainly taken from specialist retailers or reputable shops due to the prevailing conditions (COVID-19 pandemic).
The focus campaign for carnival costumes in 2023 resulted in a complaint rate of 36.1 per cent. One sample was assessed as harmful to health due to a significantly increased flame propagation rate of the tulle petticoat and the associated classification as a "serious risk". In total, six out of 72 costumes analysed had safety defects.
- Buy costumes that are easy and therefore quick to put on and take off, so that the child can quickly free himself from the burning fabric in an emergency.
- Do not choose costumes that have ribbons, cords, or the like around the neck that children could use to strangle themselves.
- Take special care with costumes that have head coverings, e.g., plush hanging ears or wigs with long hanging hair-like material, to prevent children from coming into contact with open flames.
- Remove packaging films/ bags and do not leave them for children to play with. If children pull these bags over their heads, the film, if very thin, can be sucked so tightly over the nose and mouth when breathing that the air supply is cut off and there is a risk of suffocation.
Children under the age of 3 like to put everything in their mouths and suck, suck and bite at it. Many a product offered at the fair has already had a long service life, has mostly been exhibited outdoors and has therefore been exposed to UV radiation in particular. Plastic ages more quickly under these conditions and becomes brittle. This in turn increases the likelihood of small parts breaking off from the toy and being swallowed.
Especially with projectile toys with plastic balls and suction cup projectiles, there is a risk of external injuries if children, intentionally or unintentionally, shoot at each other while playing. The eyes are particularly at risk. Since it can happen that children shoot projectiles into each other's mouths while playing, suction cup projectiles must have a certain minimum length so that they can be easily pulled out of the throat again in such a case. It is equally important that the suction cups of such projectiles cannot be easily detached. Otherwise, there is a risk that the suction cup will remain in the throat when it is pulled out, again posing a choking hazard. Especially in the case of toy guns that use the typical small plastic balls as ammunition, specimens have been found time and again that have far too high a kinetic energy. It goes without saying that toys need to bang to shoot. In some cases, however, the sound level of these toys is so high that children's hearing can be endangered.
Situation in Austria
At regular intervals, on behalf of the Ministry of Health, we carry out campaigns on the topic of "Examination of cheap toys from fairs", which show a frightening picture. In the 2018 focus action, 73 percent showed defects, and in 8 percent of the samples, children were exposed to a serious risk, so they were judged "harmful to health."
Two toy categories were found to have a particularly high risk potential: one group is toys for children under 3 years of age. The second toy category that repeatedly leads to complaints is that of projectile toys:
In recent years, our experts from the Institute for Food Safety Linz (LSL) have examined various types of projectile toys both during routine planned sampling and specifically during focus campaigns. Particularly in 2010 and 2011, the complaint rate for this toy category was alarmingly high (about 30 percent of the samples showed defects, and about 10 percent showed such serious defects that an assessment as "harmful to health" was made). Subsequent years showed a slight improvement, and in 2018 the requirements of the standard for projectile toys were revised and supplemented (e.g., a loading and firing option for foreign projectiles is considered). Although there was a significant improvement in the situation in 2013 and 2014, there are still isolated projectile toys on the market that do not meet the requirements of the Toy Ordinance or the EN 71 standard ("Safety of toys").
A decrease in the number of complaints can be seen in particular with regard to "Kugerl pistols". Here, the 2013 Softairwaffenverordnung (Softair Weapons Ordinance ) seems to be taking effect, according to which the distribution and sale of softair weapons, so-called softguns, to persons under 18 years of age and at markets and market-like events is prohibited. Previously, such softguns were sold without restriction to children as "normal toys" at toy stands, especially at fairs. However, these soft guns often had an extremely high kinetic energy.
- Parents and all supervisors can only be advised to carry out a few self-tests before leaving the projectile toy with plastic balls and suction cup projectiles to a child:
- Let it bang once, let yourself be deliberately shot once (e.g., on the forearm), pull on the suction cup: do your ears roar, does the "bullet hole" hurt, does the suction cup come loose? If so, the toy is not suitable for your child!
- The distribution and sale of softair weapons or softguns to persons under 18 years is prohibited
Together with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection, we continuously participate in EU-wide projects on toy safety.
Coordinated Activities on the Safety of Products (CASP) enables all market surveillance authorities in the countries of the European Union and the European Economic Area to cooperate in the interests of enhanced safety of products placed on the European internal market.
The two CASP projects "Toys with Magnets" and "Chemicals in Toys" started in the summer of 2022 and were completed in the fall of 2023.
CASP project "Toys with magnets
Number of participating member states: 12 Number of samples examined: 145 Number of samples objected to (safety defects): 20 (14%) Number of samples objected to (total, including formal defects): 80 (55%)
Tips for toys with magnets
- Be aware of the dangers of strong magnets and educate children of all ages. Supervise play to ensure safety.
- If more than one magnet is swallowed, they can cause a blockage in the intestines, perforate or damage the intestines, and/or cut off blood supply to parts of the intestines. Seek immediate medical attention if you believe a magnet has been swallowed, especially if the child is experiencing flu-like symptoms, vomiting, or suffering from abdominal pain.
- Check toys with magnets regularly during the time of use. With intensive use, these toys can break so that magnets or magnetic parts are accessible that are small enough to swallow.
Tips regarding chemicals in toys
- Buy toys only through trusted retail channels - online and offline. Do not look for cheaper products on other websites or through other sales channels, as this increases the likelihood that you will get an inferior product.
- Do not buy low-quality soft plastic toys; these have higher chemical hazards.
Last updated: 19.02.2024