The Customs Laboratory examined a total of 111 clothing products for babies, such as overalls, bodysuits, T-shirts, trousers, cardigans, booties, mittens and hats. The Customs Laboratory also examined a total of 61 baby toys, such as rattles, teething toys and cuddly toys. Most of the products originated in non-EU countries, mostly in China. 5% of the clothes and 10% of the toys were rejected due to a health risk. Baby products must meet the strict requirements of both national and European legislation.
As a consumer group, babies are more sensitive than adults, because baby skin is thinner than adult skin, and therefore more permeable to harmful compounds from the environment. Last year, the Customs Laboratory analysed baby textiles for various chemicals that predispose to hypersensitivity or cause allergic reactions – such as formaldehyde, nickel and hexavalent chromium – as well as for aromatic amines released as degradation products from certain azo dyes used for dyeing fabrics. Some of the aromatic amines are classified as carcinogenic compounds. Package labels and the safety of cords and strings in baby clothes were also examined.
The fabric of 104 clothing items was analysed for formaldehyde and the fabric of ten clothing items for aromatic amines. The nickel content of the poppers was analysed in 27 clothing items and hexavalent chromium in seven leather booties. The safety of cords and strings in four pairs of pants was also determined, and the package labels of five clothing samples were examined.
Formaldehyde is a compound that irritates the skin, the eyes and the airways. It is used in textile manufacturing e.g. to prevent creasing. Nickel is a heavy metal that may cause contact allergy. Hexavalent chromium compounds formed in the leather tanning process are also higly allergenic. Cords and drawstrings in clothes may present a hazard. A string in the hood or the hem of a child’s coat may get caught in playground equipment or a moving vehicle.
The examinations revealed non-complying strings in four pairs of trousers, one pair of mittens with too much formaldehyde and poppers in one bodysuit that released too much nickel. The import of these products or their entry to the market was prohibited. The Customs Laboratory remarked on five products due to insufficient package labels. No aromatic amines or hexavalent chromium was detected in the examined products.
Hazards with baby toys
Baby toys include e.g. rattles, squeaky toys, teething toys, hand-held activity toys and cuddly bedtime toys. Soft books and blocks with textile or vinyl surface are also baby toys. Cribs and pram hanging toys as well as activity mats and arches with hanging characters or colourful parts that the baby can grab when lying on his or her back.
The Customs Laboratory examines, among other things, that the toys don’t have small parts that come off and that could end up in the baby’s mouth or throat and present a risk of asphyxiation or cause other hazardous situations. The toy safety standard determines the torque, tension, drop and impact tests required when testing whether small parts come off of toys. Baby toys are also subject to size requirements examined using templates. The Customs Laboratory also performs chemical analyses on toys: it analyses the migration of certain elements and determines softeners, such as phthalates, in plastics and formaldehyde in textiles.
Of the examined 61 baby toys, six had non-complying mechanical properties, and the import of these products or their entry to the market was prohibited. Three toys had small parts that came off and presented a risk of asphyxiation and two toys had a string that was too long and posed a risk of strangulation. Regarding one baby activity toy, one toy part broke, which posed a risk of damage to the skin or eyes. As for chemical properties, all toys were complying, but four toys had insufficient package labels.
Finnish Customs is a part of the customs system of the European Union. Customs is a state agency supervised by the Ministry of Finance through management by results. Finnish Customs cooperates with the trade community as well as with domestic and foreign authorities. Finnish Customs has approximately 1 900 employees.
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