Immediately before the Christmas break, the EU institutions reached agreement on the text of a new toy safety directive which has now been signed off by the European Council and the European Parliament. The agreed text goes further than the Commission’s proposal for a new directive, which was published last January following a number of high-profile recalls of unsafe toys in 2007. The key provisions of the new directive, which will eventually replace the 1988 toy safety directive and will apply to all toys manufactured and imported into the EU, include the following:

  • a ban on the use of chemicals that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction (so called CMR substances) in toys, unless exposure can be ruled out or if the use is permitted by express provisions of other Community legislation or has been approved by the European Scientific Committee following a risk assessment;
  • a ban on the use of 55 potentially allergenic fragrances in toys, with strict labelling requirements for a limited number of permitted fragrances;
  • tougher rules on the use of heavy metals in parts of toys that are accessible to children, with the intentional use of arsenic, cadmium, chromium VI, lead, mercury and organic tin being banned. For the first time, aluminium, copper, nickel and tin will be subject to maximum limit values;
  • new rules to reduce the risk of asphyxiation due to small toys or small parts of toys;
  • a new ‘essential safety requirement’ concerning sound-emitting toys, with a revised European Committee for Standardization (CEN) standard to be established to limit peak values for both impulse and prolonged noise from such toys to protect children from hearing damage;
  • toys intended for children under 36 months;
  • new language and visibility requirements for warnings on toys so that they are clearly legible at the point of sale;
  • new rules governing toys sold alongside food products to prevent them from being inhaled or swallowed;
  • stricter market surveillance of all toys on the market; and
  • requirements for manufacturers to carry out a thorough assessment of the chemical, mechanical, electrical, hygiene and other hazards associated with their products and to produce a technical dossier containing all relevant safety assessment and compliance data for the market surveillance authorities.  

Member states will have 18 months from publication of the directive in the Official Journal to transpose it into national law. However, during a transitional period of two years from the directive’s entry into force, toys that are in compliance with current legislation will still be permitted to be placed on the market. Longer transitional periods will also apply for some of the directive’s requirements.