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Phenol Restricted in Toys for Toddlers Under 36 Months of Age

On 4 May 2017, Commission Directive 2017/774 was published in the Official Journal of the EU. The Commission Directive amends Appendix C to Annex II to Directive 2009/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the safety of toys (the framework toy Directive) for the purpose of adopting specific limit values for the chemical phenol, in relation to its presence in children’s toys.

The framework toy Directive allows (in its Article 46(2)) the adoption of migration limits and lowered content limits for chemicals found in toys intended for use by children under 36 months of age or that may be placed in the mouth. The Commission Directive incorporates phenol into this framework.

Hong Kong companies manufacturing consumer goods may know that phenol (a type of carbolic acid) is found in a wide variety of industries and products. It can be traced to plastics and synthetic fibres in the manufacturing of children’s toys, such as game consoles, bath and inflatable toys, tents and play tunnels, as well as in packing film. Additionally, it can be present as residue from plastic production, in solvents, or in preservative agents in water-based toys (e.g., liquid inks in felt-tipped markers).

As a monomer, phenol is also used as a compound in the creation of synthetic polymers like phenolic resin and PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which are used in the manufacture of resin-bonded wooden toys or glues. New restrictions on phenol content are thus likely to affect exports by Hong Kong toy sellers. 

Hong Kong’s toy suppliers may recall that phenol has long been regulated in toys in the EU. Under CLP Regulation 1272/2008 – the base regulation for substance classification, labelling, and packaging – phenol ranks among the hazardous substances classed as mutagenic category 2. According to this classification, phenol was previously limited in toys to concentrations of equal to or less than 10,000 mg/kg (content limit), correlating with its 1% content limitation in mixtures. Additionally, no migration limit for phenol was provided.  

Taking into account scientific evidence on phenol toxicity, the European Commission was persuaded that the existing measures were insufficient for children’s safety. The health risks posed by toxic phenol exposure include, but are not limited to, damage to the skin, organs, red blood cells, and immune system, and even death. Children have generally been shown to be more vulnerable to the dangers of chemical exposure than adults; infants are especially sensitive to phenol exposure.

The new Commission Directive places a migration limit on phenol in polymeric materials at a maximum concentration of 5 mg/l. The content limit of phenol as a preservative is set at 10 mg/kg, which is intended to operate as a de facto use ban.

Member States will need to adopt legislation necessary for compliance with this new restriction, which will be effective from 4 November 2018.

Readers may click on the following to view Directive (EU) 2017/774.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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