The European Commission on Friday called for carcinogenic and toxic chemicals to be banned from children's toys and for wider use of safety warnings to avoid accidents.
Commission vice president Guenter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industrial policy, admitted that the new measures would entail extra costs and that 100 percent safety in toys, or any other product, could not be guaranteed.
Advertisement"Economic operators are now called to live up to their responsibilities to ensure that children can enjoy playing with toys without risks," said Verheugen, as he proposed new EU laws to be considered by the 27 member states.
The rules if adopted would affect EU manufacturers and elsewhere, notably China.
China is the world's top toy exporter, selling 22 billion toys overseas in 2006.
US giant Mattel recalled more than 21 million Chinese-made toys last summer, but later apologised saying 85 percent of the recall was due to its own design flaws.
The EU commissioner explained that there was a need for a re-vamp of the existing laws not least because "we've seen dramatic changes in the toy market and we've made new scientific breakthoughs in the past 20 years particularly concerning the use of chemicals in toys."
Among the detailed proposals he unveiled was the banning of all chemical substances that could provoke cancer as well as those which could cause genetic mutations or be "toxic for reproduction" in toys aimed at the under-14s.
The EU's executive arm also wants to ban fragrances that could provoke allergies.
Toys that are "firmly attached" to a food product and which require the food to be eaten before the toy can be accessed, would also be banned.
For the millions of Kinder surprise egg lovers, Verheugen had the good news that these would not be prohibited as "you can open the chocolate and take out the toy."
The European Commission hopes that the new rules, modifying the existing ones agreed in 1988, can be approved by the EU member states and parliament by the end of the year,
European Consumer groups BEUC and ANEC backed the EU's aim to improve toy safety but said the outlined regulations revealed "several important deficiencies."
"We support the Commission's objective to address the problem of dangerous toys but we need much stricter rules, particularly concerning chemical substances in toys," BEUC director general Monique Goyens said in a joint statement.
The groups said the bans on carcinogens and other toxic substances only referred to the accessible parts of toys, and that other problematic substances, including hormone disruptors, were exempt.
They also highlighted a row surrounding the bloc's 'CE' labels, "which consumers wrongly believe to be a safety label."
As this was not the case, they argued the CE marking should only be used on accompanying technical documentation and not the toys themselves.
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