Findings of a new study have revealed that plastic used in some second-hand toys may pose health hazards to children and does not meet safety guidelines.

Toxic Elements In Second-Hand Toys

In a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, Andrew Turner, of the University of Plymouth, tested 200 used plastic toys in thrift shops, nurseries, and homes for hazardous elements.

Using X-ray fluorescence technology to analyze these toys, which include trains, cars, figures, and puzzles, the researcher found that 20 of about 200 second-hand plastic toys tested had traces of nine elements, which include barium, bromine, cadmium, chromium, antimony, lead, and selenium. Some had concentrations that are too high to meet safety standards.

Potential Health Effects On Children

The elements can be chronically toxic if children are exposed to them at low levels over an extended period of time.

Arsenic is a toxin linked to developmental defects, neurotoxicity, skin lesions, cardiovascular conditions, and even cancer. Cadmium is a hormone disruptor associated with breast cancer. Exposure to lead can jeopardize the brain and the nervous system.

Children who put these toys in their mouth could be exposed to greater amount of toxins. All the toys tested for the study were small enough to be chewed by children.

"Previously used toys has the potential to create a legacy of chemical contamination for younger children," Turner said.

The worst offenders were found to be yellow, red, and black plastics. Turner noted the Lego bricks from the '70s and '80 are among those found to have high levels of toxic chemicals. The researcher said that toys were not tested in those days, but they are handed down.

Consumers Need To Be Aware Of Risks

Second-hand toys make an attractive option for families because they can be handed down by friends or relatives. They are also priced cheaply at charity stores, flea markets, and the internet.

The researcher said that with lack of regulation to cover the resale and recycling of older toys, consumers should at least be aware of the potential harms these toys pose to children.

"While there is no retroactive regulation on second-hand toys, consumers should be aware that old, mouthable, plastic items may present a source of hazardous element exposure to infants," Turner wrote in his report.

Another potential danger of buying second-hand toy is the possibility of buying items that have been recalled in the past.

"Avoid buying used toys that have no packaging or that are missing some type of label or brand identification, without which it might be difficult or impossible to tell if the toy has been recalled," Consumer Reports advised.

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