Keeping Children Safe – Testing Toys

The toy industry has been inundated recently with concerned parents, worried about the safety of the plastic used in their children's favourite toys. Concerns mostly surround toys and games which use plastic that could contain toxic chemicals. It is unclear how traces of toxic chemicals, typically used in a wide range of products as flame retardants, were discovered in a range of children’s toys. We investigate the chemicals traced in plastics from toys and how mass spectrometry is helping to identify these harmful chemicals. 

For many years, brominated flame retardants (BFRs) have been used in products to make them less flammable. The man-made chemicals are used in a variety of plastics, textiles and electronic equipment. They can be separated into three main categories; polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), tetrabromobiphenol A (TBBPA) and decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE). Despite many of these chemicals being banned in Europe, they have still managed to be traced in a range of toys and food containers. This is determined to be due to poor recycling practices, with many BFRs used in circuit boards for electrical equipment.

The standard test to investigate the chemical properties of plastics is to use gas chromatography with mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Studies showed that the majority of flame retardant chemicals found in toys came from recycled materials originally used for computer and laptop casings. Mass spectrum analysis showed toys contained traces of both bromine and antimony, both commonly used in flame retardants. This discovery has caused a call for improvements in recycling processes, with increased efforts to remove the BFR containing plastics from the recycling system.

This example demonstrates the importance of high-resolution mass spectrometry in the testing process, ensuring the products used by our children are non-toxic and safe. With continued investigation into these harmful toxins, it is expected that mass spectrometry instruments will adapt to detect these harmful toxins at lower concentrations. As a result of this discovery, recycling practices have been improved, helping improve the safety of our plastic products. Improvements in toy safety will help put parent’s minds at ease and ensure our children play safely.

Mass Spec Technology Solutions Ltd is a Manchester-based company providing the latest technology and innovation through their range of mass spectrometry instruments. Their team of skilled engineers are committed to providing fast, effective service at an affordable price. With continued investment into mass spectrometers, their mass spec service in unrivalled.

In addition to their range of mass spec products, they also offer a range of other laboratory products including vacuum pump noise reduction units, nitrogen generators and custom MS lab bench. In addition, they also offer a range of mass spectrometer upgrades, a great addition to your MS lab.

For more information on our mass spectrometry services, contact us here or call on 0161 9989 219.

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