Because consumers have been shopping at online shops outside the EU increasingly often in the past few years, the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) decided to test the safety of products sold in these shops that are popular among Finnish consumers. The results were alarming: only one item among the 32 toys, child care supplies, jewellery and electrical appliances purchased by Tukes fulfilled European requirements. If the products were sold in Finland, the shops would be obliged to collect them from the consumers. As for the cosmetics ordered, six products out of ten did not have the list of ingredients required in Europe. The tests by Tukes are a part of the ‘Omalla vastuulla’ campaign (‘At Your Own Risk’, link: www.omallavastuulla.fi ) by the authorities.
Tukes ordered samples for safety testing especially from the large online shopping platforms popular among Finns, such Wish, AliExpress and eBay. Because the online shops are not located in Finland or the EU, they are outside the scope of monitoring by the Finnish authorities. In practice, this means that consumers purchasing products from outside the EU are personally responsible for the consequences if the product causes damage.
Tukes’s experts selected the products for testing based on the same principles that are used in monitoring in Finland. In selecting the samples, Tukes also cooperated with the popular Wish/AliExpress/eBay (Finland) Facebook group.
In addition to the products, Tukes also examined the product packaging. None of the nine packages studied contained heavy metals prohibited from use in packaging, such as cadmium, lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium.
All of the toys and child care supplies tested were dangerous
All of the toys, dummies, dummy chains and children’s clothing selected by Tukes for testing, seventeen items in total, were found to be dangerous during testing. The safety deficiencies were blatant.
“For example, one of the items was a dummy chain that stretched out to 170 centimetres, when the maximum permitted length of a dummy chain in Europe is 22 centimetres. If the dummy chain is too long, it becomes a hangman’s noose for the baby. Toys that swell in the water that can be confused with loose sweets due to their appearance were also a cause for concern. For example, if a child chews on such a toy and a part of the toy enters into the child’s system, it could result in a lethal intestinal obstruction in the worst case,” says Senior Officer Anja Merenkivi, Tukes.
Other deficiencies discovered include:
- cords and drawstrings in the head and neck area of clothing for small children that pose a risk of strangulation
- button cell batteries that came loose too easily from children’s watches and rings; they are corrosive and burn internal organs when swallowed
- small parts that pose a risk of choking for children under 3 years of age came loose from many of the tested toys intended for small children
- the part of the dummy that is sucked on came loose in the pull test; this poses a risk of choking for babies
- deficient air holes in dummies that pose a risk of choking
- the dummy part of a feeder dummy was not made out of a material suitable for use in contact with food.
This year, the European Union has started to cooperate with large online shopping platforms outside the EU in product safety issues. Tukes is in contact with the online shopping platforms participating in the cooperation, and requests them to remove the products that Tukes has found to be dangerous from sale.
Five chargers posed a risk of fire and electric shock
Tukes tested six different USB mobile phone chargers from cheap online shops, five out of which were found to be dangerous during testing. The dangerous products posed the risk of fire as well as electric shocks. The prices of the tested chargers varied from less than one euro to roughly five euros. All of the chargers that cost less than one euro proved to be dangerous.
- “One of chargers was among the most dangerous items discovered in Tukes’s history of electrical safety testing. Even though the sample is really small, it supports our observations from Finland: the product, whose labelling was mostly fine, also performed well in the safety tests,” says Senior Officer Kimmo Hakala, Tukes.
Cosmetics: The list of ingredients mandatory in the EU was missing from six packages
Tukes ordered twelve different types of cosmetics samples for safety testing from online shops outside the EU. The items included a makeup set for children, peeling socks, facial peeling, gel nail polish cured under UV light, hyaluronic acid, skin lightening cream, lip plumping lip gloss, long-lasting lipstick, a teeth whitening kit, and glow-in-the-dark face paint. The samples also included eyelash glue and microblading pigment that are currently classified as consumer chemicals, not cosmetics.
Cosmetics sold in Europe must have a list of ingredients. It lists the chemicals contained in the cosmetics. Six of the samples ordered by Tukes did not have any kind of a list of ingredients at all. Without a list of ingredients, consumers cannot find out if the product also contains a chemical found to be dangerous in the EU.
In four of the products purchased by Tukes, the ingredients were listed using something other than the Latin alphabet. Most of the lists of ingredients could be translated, and based on the translations, four of these products did not contain any ingredients prohibited in the EU. However, the products did not contain the ingredients promised by the product listing, either.
“Based on the translated ingredients, the skin lightening cream did not contain any lightening ingredients. As for the teeth whitening kit, it turned out to be a product that removes plaque based on the translation. The hyaluronic acid ordered was supposed to be 100% hyaluronic acid, but in reality, we received a product that only contained hyaluronic acid as one of its ingredients,” says Senior Officer Anna Vuori, Tukes.
Based on Tukes’s observations, it is impossible to tell whether cosmetics ordered from online shops outside the EU are safe or not. Moreover, the buyer should remember that these products do not have a company located within the EU that would be responsible for the safety of the products.
Jewellery sold as silver did not contain any precious metal
Tukes also ordered seven pieces of silver jewellery and two pieces of titanium jewellery from distant lands outside the EU. All seven pieces of silver jewellery had the 925 stamp to prove their silver content.
“However, none of these pieces of jewellery contained any precious metal, meaning that the buyer was swindled,” says Senior Officer Anneli Pärnänen, Tukes.
The situation was the same for the two pieces of titanium jewellery purchased from outside the EU: neither of them contained titanium.
Consumers need new kinds of competence
Because the products tested and examined by Tukes are sold outside the EU, their sellers cannot be obliged to take measures such as collecting products from Finnish consumers. Tukes hopes that Finns shopping online and buying things from distant lands outside the EU would learn about the Finnish safety requirements of the products they purchase and be aware of the risks when making the decision to buy.
“Online shops also sell good and safe products. When consumers buy products from online shops all over the world, they need new kinds of skills and competence first and foremost. Consumers themselves must make sure that the product is safe and suitable for its purpose, and that importing it into Finland is legal,” says Tuiri Kerttula, Director of Product and Installations Surveillance at the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes).
Pictures of the products examined by Tukes:http://tukes.qbank.fi/v2.6/mb.php?h=5622f62418b7fcbe7a705f28988cf311)
When ordering items from outside the EU, you are responsible for safety – website of the ‘Omalla vastuulla’ (At your own risk) campaign: www.omallavastuulla.fi
Toys and child care supplies, Senior Officer Anja Merenkivi, tel. +358 29 5052 192
Electrical appliances: Senior Officer Kimmo Hakala, tel. +358 29 5052 199
Cosmetics, Senior Officer Anna Vuori, tel. +358 29 5052 035
Jewellery, Senior Officer Anneli Pärnänen, tel. +358 29 5052 637
Market surveillance by Tukes in Finland and cooperation with the EU: Director Tuiri Kerttula, tel. +358 29 5052 643
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