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Dangerous products flooding Europe

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Europe, including the Czech Republic, has been flooded with a wave of dangerous products. At the top of the list are harmful toys, life-threatening electrical appliances and defective cars. The number of dangerous products withdrawn from EU markets has doubled in the past three years.

Last year, more than 1,500 reports appeared in the system used by European Union countries to warn one another against harmful goods. The largest portion of dangerous products comes from China, according to an analysis by the law office Lovells.

Suffocation biggest danger

The greatest number of warnings concerns life-threatening toys – and the most frequent risks include suffocation with small toy components and strangulation by pieces of clothing, Czech Trade Inspectorate (ČOI) spokesman Marek Ženkl said. The inspectorate also focuses on phthalates – harmful chemical substances that children absorb for example by chewing rubber toys, or harmful dyes.

“Recently, there has been an increased appearance in the Czech Republic of fire arms imitations and laser pointers that pose a threat of visual impairment,” Ženkl said. Another problem is toys that customers can easily confuse with food. “But there is a ban on goods that you can confuse with food at the first sight,” he added.

ČOI statistics indicate that there are stricter checks of the quality of goods sold also in the Czech Republic. The number of potentially dangerous products tested by the ČOI increased from 146 in 2007 to 234 last year. Roughly 60% of them were banned last year.

Playing at one’s own risk

The proportion of toys in the overall number of harmfulness reports in the European system decreased slightly last year. Ženkl said it could have been caused by a bigger cautiousness on the part of Asian manufacturers who already have an idea of what they can get away with on European markets. At the same time, however, Ženkl pointed to a method that producers use increasingly to circumvent safety requirements.

“Producers know that toys for children up to 36 months have to comply with stricter criteria. So they rather declare on the packaging that a toy is not suitable for children younger than three years even though it’s clear than older children would not enjoy playing with the toy. If parents do buy such a toy for their child, it’s their problems,” Ženkl said.

Czech customers also lay greater emphasis on harmlessness of products – last year consumers sent more than 15,000 incentives to the ČOI, almost a quarter more compared with 2007.

China arouses fear

Czech retailers have registered a bigger interest among customers in avoiding life-threatening goods. Michala Loudínová of the online toy store Dráček said more and more customers want a guarantee that a product meets standards and it harmless. They have biggest concerns about goods made in China. “Not long ago producers thought that they can sell toys for the youngest children without certificates, but now products must have them – otherwise customers choose something else,” Loudínová said.

With more than 50% reports, goods from China are still among the most criticised. Next come Germany, Italy and the USA.

Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.

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