The hazards of superheroes and their friends

Tests reveal toys have highest levels of toxic chemicals

Press release - 29 April, 2005
New test results commissioned by Greenpeace reveal that consumer goods aimed at children and babies contained the highest levels of toxic substances, out of a shopping basket of everyday articles. Dolls Spiderman flip ‘n zip and Mattel’s Barbie Fashion Fever contained high levels of phthalates, according to the tests

Greenpeace Italy commissioned the laboratory tests on chemicaladditives in a shopping basket of 12 common consumer items, includingtoys, T- shirts, DVD players and baby body care products [1]. The testswere carried out by Dutch laboratory TNO Environment and Geosciences.

"Some manufacturers add hazardous chemicals to children's productswithout regard to the fact that the young are most vulnerable to theireffects," said Helen Perivier, Greenpeace International toxicscampaigner. "As long as governments fail to require companies to usesafer substitutes for such chemicals, they are leaving childrenunprotected from substances that can cause long term harm," she added.

Many of the chemicals concerned - phthalates, alkylphenols, organotinsand synthetic musks - can potentially disrupt hormonal functions, causecancers or birth defects, harm reproduction and build up or persist inthe environment, food chain and in our bodies [2].

The problem of harmful chemicals in consumer products is beingaddressed by the European Union, which is debating a new chemicalsregulation, known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisationof Chemicals), in an attempt to bring the current chemical anarchyunder control. But REACH falls short of requiring companies tosubstitute hazardous chemicals in products with safer substituteswhenever possible, even though a growing number of progressive globalcompanies are doing just this.

A Greenpeace report: Safer Chemicals within Reach - Using theSubstitution Principle to drive Green Chemistry, provides moreinformation about the availability of safer alternatives and companiesimplementing substitution policies [3].

Notes to editors

[1] See 'The Chemical Shopping Basket - Chemical Analyses of 12 Consumer Products' and TNO report

Report by TNO Environment and Geosciences

[2] Hazardous chemicals are now so widely used in consumer productsthat they have been found in rainwater, house dust and human blood. Seelinks to Greenpeace reports on chemicals out of control

[3] See the Greenpeace report Chemicals within Reach

Other contacts: Helen Perivier, Toxics Campaigner, Greenpeace International: tel +32 496 127 107Iza Kruszewska, Toxics Campaigner, Greenpeace International: tel +44 7801 212 992