EU Toy Directive Germany advocates stricter limit values

The Federal Government finds it inacceptable that, since July 2013, the limit values for some heavy metals have been raised beyond the hitherto permissible levels in Germany as a consequence of the EU Toy Directive.

Germany brought an action against the EU Commission in May 2012 to ensure that, for the protection of children's health, the stricter German limit values were allowed to remain in place.

On 14 May 2014 the Court of First Instance of the European Communities (CFI) ruled that Germany was allowed to retain its stricter limit values for lead in toys. Although the Court also recognised that the limit values of the EU Toy Directive might very well result in higher exposure in the case of materials that can scrape off such as paint on toy cars or wooden bricks, it finally came to the conclusion that the evidence from Germany was not fully sufficient to prove that the existing limit values for antimony, arsenic and mercury provided better protection than the new European limit values.

Germany also applied to retain its stricter limit values for barium. The European Commission responded by lowering the European limit values. Hence the Court no longer had to take a decision on barium. Changing the European limit values for barium is a step in the right direction. Germany had, however, advocated a further reduction.

The Federal Government regrets the fact that the judges only upheld the action brought by Germany in part and therefore decided in July 2014 to bring an appeal against the ruling. The Federal Government continues to find it inacceptable that, as a consequence of the EU Toy Directive, less stringent limit values are to apply in respect of some heavy metals than those currently in place in Germany.

The EU Toy Directive

The EU Toy Directive has established wide-ranging provisions for the safety of toys. It is designed to ensure that toys guarantee high levels of consumer protection. At the same time, given the nature of the common internal market, the safety requirements for toys and the minimum requirements for market surveillance must apply across the whole EU.

The first part of the EU Toy Directive is primarily concerned with provisions for technical and constructional safety, i.e. provisions that deal with the mechanical, electrical and fire safety properties of toys. It has been in force since 20 July 2011. The new regulations in the chemical part of the EU Toy Directive are in effect since 20 July 2013.

In Germany, the new Toy Directive Directive 2009/48/EC is implemented by the Ordinance on the Safety of Toys (Second Ordinance to the Equipment and Product Safety Act - 2nd GPSGV).

Amendment contains stricter requirements for toy production and tougher inspection obligations for toy manufacturers and importers

The use of carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic substances in toys is generally prohibited. However, these substances may be used under certain circumstances, such as when the threshold values laid down in Community legislation are adhered to. The use of 55 allergenic fragrances is prohibited for consumer health protection reasons. Eleven additional fragrances must be indicated on labelling if present in toys.

Toys may no longer be firmly attached to foodstuffs, thus reducing the danger of children accidentally swallowing them. Particular categories of toys will need to carry specific warnings in future. In Germany, these warnings must be preceded by the word "Achtung" ("Warning") and be clearly legible.

The BMEL believes that the safety levels for toys are still insufficient with regard to carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic substances (CMR substances).

The threshold levels for these substances envisaged by the Toys Directive are based on levels that were laid down in chemicals legislation. But since children need special protection, special requirements should apply when laying down the limit values for CMR substances in toys. In this context, it is also important to consider the findings obtained from materials that may come into contact with foodstuffs. There is also an urgent need for improvement regarding the threshold levels for heavy metals. Action taken by the Federal Government to this effect is outlined in more detail in the Federal Government's responses 17/99, 17/392, 17/3809, 17/10429, 17/11759 and 18/461.

It is encouraging to see that the Directive's originally envisaged trigger levels for cadmium have now been lowered, primarily at Germany's insistence.

The Federal Government has strongly advocated raising toy safety standards for many years and, in the deliberations about the Toy Directive, it has repeatedly pressed for improvements. This is why the Federal Ministry commissioned the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) with the task of conducting a number of risk evaluations for toys, in order to underline to Brussels the need for improvements in toy safety.

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