Brightly Colored or Black Older Plastic Toys Can Contain Cadmium, Lead or Bromine Interview with:
“Toys” by Holger Zscheyge is licensed under CC BY 2.0Dr Andrew Turner

Reader in Environmental Science (Biogeochemistry and Toxicology)
School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Plymouth, UK What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: The study arose through a larger investigation into hazardous substances in consumer plastics, both old and new.

The main finding of the present research was the widespread occurrence of restricted elements in old plastic toys, and in particular cadmium, lead and bromine (the latter an indicator of the presence of flame retardants); in many cases, these elements could migrate from the plastic under conditions simulating the human digestive system. What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: Be wary of brightly coloured older toys (> 10 to 15 years old) that are red or yellow as these often contain cadmium or lead, especially for younger children and if the products are mouthable. Also, be cautious about older black toys which often contain bromine, espescially for young children. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Further research should focus on bromine in both historical and contemporary black plastics and in both toys and other consumer products. The bromine appears to be derived from illegally recycled electronic waste. Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Response: The issue of recycling of electronic waste plastic is something that needs to be brought to the attention of the public.


Andrew Turner, Concentrations and migratabilities of hazardous elements in second-hand children’s plastic toys, Environmental Science & Technology (2018). DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b04685 

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Last Updated on January 26, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD