Loom band safety warning over ‘cancer-causing’ imports

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A warning has been issued to parents to be alert to the dangers of cheap imported loom band sets. This comes after tests have revealed that some of the plastic charms contained high cancer-causing chemical levels.

Loom bands are narrow twisted plastic bands which children turn into colourful jewellery items. During the last few months these have become extremely popular globally.

It is also possible to purchase small plastic charms which can be fitted to the bracelet. It is the charms where the high levels of phthalates were found.

This chemical is used to make the plastic easier to wear and work with, but it is known to be a carcinogen. The use of this chemical is controlled strictly, particularly in toys that children may be able to put into their mouths.

The legal content limit for phthalates is 0.1%. An independent company involved in the safety testing of toys, The Birmingham Assay Office, undertook tests on 16 packets of the charms which were brought into the country packed in ‘unofficial’ box sets. They found that the plastic contained more than the recommended level of chemicals and two of the charms contained in excess of 50%.

According to the Birmingham Assay Office’s Marion Wilson this does not mean that every loom band packet is affected, however there may be several that could be affected. She said that they are concerned because the charm is the most likely part of the bracelet to end up in a child’s mouth.

She added that the company does not want to scare people, but their job is to protect consumers, so when these results are produced, they have no choice but to issue warnings.

According to a lead officer for product safety at the Trading Standards Institute, Robert Chantry-Price, the risks are dependent on the length of exposure time. He said that if you were to touch and play with a toy which contained phthalates for around 10 minutes, you would probably not be at risk. However, children are turning the loom bands into bracelets and wearing them for long time periods. This means that there is direct contact with their skin 24 hours of each day over several weeks.

He added that children’s skin is able to absorb toxins more easily than that of adults. Phthalates are mutagenic, carcinogenic and can cause problems with the reproductive system.

He said that scientists are not aware of the full extent of the problem, but tests are being carried out as a precaution.

He has issued a warning to parents to only buy the loom bands from reputable stores and not at market stalls. A safety measure is to look for the UK distributor’s address on the packaging and the CE mark. Parents should stop their children from placing the charms into their mouths.

Image Credit: markheybo

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