The cost-of-living crisis is turning consumers to cheaper products, but they come at a dangerous price.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) is issuing a stark warning to the public after toy testing revealed a bow-and-arrow set containing 100 times the legal limit of phthalates and a fashion doll set 300 times over the legal limit.

Phthalates are plastic-softening chemicals that are used to make plastic more durable. The use of certain phthalates is tightly restricted in toys across Europe and toy products must contain no more than 0.1%.

CTSI is deeply concerned that such large quantities of restricted phthalates are still being used in children’s toys, especially when it can cause such serious long-term consequences to a person’s health.

Restricted phthalates are carcinogenic and can cause reproductive problems as well as having long-term adverse effects on child growth and neurodevelopment.

Despite UK legislation to protect the public, significant amounts of these substances have been found in some of the children’s toys that CTSI have had tested.

Pregnant women and young children are reported to be the most vulnerable groups to the effects of phthalates, and with young children being prone to putting things in their mouths, it’s likely they will chew on the plastic and consume the chemicals.

A desktop fan heater was also tested, which found multiple failings including; the mains plug and wires not meeting the safety standards, a counterfeit fuse and inadequate safety guards to ensure people, domestic animals and property are not put at risk while the product is in use.

Testing of an adaptor plug on a set of children’s LED lights also found a counterfeit fuse, and no breakdown isolation between the input and output, which could cause overheating and is a fire hazard.

Consumers are increasingly vulnerable to unsafe products

CTSI conducted a product safety campaign with Salford City Council Trading Standards to explore the link between the cost-of-living crisis and whether consumers were being forced to buy cheaper products, and if that was putting consumers at risk from substandard and unsafe goods.

CTSI visited local high streets in Salford to talk to consumers about their buying habits; the top five products shoppers are seeking to save money on are:

  • Phone chargers
  • Toys and games
  • Hair straighteners
  • Toasters and kettles
  • Washing machines

One consumer talked about a situation that arose when his son’s phone charger broke and he needed to replace it, as the phone is essential for his child as he travels to school alone.

The consumer said he is well informed about the dangers of cheap chargers as it is well documented in the media, but he had no choice but to buy an unbranded charger as he didn’t have the money to buy a legitimate one due to an unexpected energy bill.

CTSI warns that this is just the tip of the iceberg and the product safety issues on uncovered are likely to be replicated across the UK.

With the cost-of-living crisis causing consumers to turn to cheaper alternatives, consumers are increasingly vulnerable to unsafe products.

John Herriman, Chief Executive of CTSI, said:

“Businesses selling unsafe goods are taking no regard for the safety of their customers. We see reports in the news of fires from faulty household goods, so these unscrupulous shopkeepers could be selling products that are deadly.

“We urge businesses to think carefully about the supply chains they are using to source their products, and if buying from overseas sellers they should be checking for product safety testing information and ensure they have contact details that can be used to trace the products back to the manufacturer in the event of a problem.

“No parent should be buying a toy from the high street and have to second guess whether it’s safe or not. Trading Standards are working hard to rid our shops and online marketplaces of these unsafe products, but more needs to be done to stop these products from reaching UK shores.

“We are still awaiting the publication of the Government’s Product Safety Review – hopefully this will be a vital piece of the puzzle in implementing much-needed measures that improve the safety of products including toys and electrical goods. It is an issue that is simply too important to delay any longer.”

Katrina Philips OBE, Chief Executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust said:

“With family finances under huge strain, we’re all looking to save money wherever we can. But children don’t stop having birthdays just because money is tight. This puts parents at real risk of buying cheap toys that don’t meet UK safety standards – and that can badly hurt or even kill their child.

“If you can, buy toys and games from a reputable store on your high street or online, and avoid overseas sellers on online marketplaces.”

Jerry Burnie OBE, Head of Compliance at the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA), said:

“The British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) applauds the efforts of Salford Trading Standards and CTSI in general in tackling hazardous products that should not be on the market.   The BTHA and its members welcome the removal of dangerous products.

“Our members spend a lot of time and money ensuring their toys are safe and do not contain substances that have been banned around the world for many years.

“Whilst we understand times are very hard at present, we would urge parents to buy carefully from reputable stores and toy companies and avoid these dangerous toys that are putting children at risk.”

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