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EU is acting on scientific evidence to cut lead in toys, not stopping children colouring

January 29th, 2017

The EU is introducing new measures reducing the limits for lead in toys, based on new and robust scientific evidence.

Anyone with young children knows that they have tendency to chew toys – not least pencils and crayons. The latest scientific evidence supports the view that there is no safe threshold and even tiny amounts of lead present in such toys can contribute to the risk of children suffering disorders ranging from kidney disease to learning difficulties.

So this is about making toys safer for children, not about “banning” crayons and colouring pencils as The Sun newspaper suggests.

The Sun blames “Brussels pen pushers”. In fact, the new rules derive from detailed scientific work under the auspices of the European Food Safety Authority and European Chemicals Authority (summarised here in an impact assessment) and followed by a European Commission proposal submitted to elected MEPs and the Council of the European Union (national governments) who could have chosen to block it, but did not.

According to the European Chemicals Agency, the average lead content in the blood of European children is already up to four times higher than the suggested level, making any additional intake to be avoided as far as possible. It is incorrect that the new limits assume children would eat 18 crayons in a year, as the Sun states.

What is more, the vast majority of toys on the market are already compliant with the lower limits. Manufacturers of those that are not will have until the new rules enter into force in summer 2018 to adapt their products.

The Sun has taken the story from German newspaper Bild and also claims that “the European Commission has yet to comment on the changes.” This is by definition inaccurate as the Commission published detailed proposals and evidence when it submitted the changes for approval to national governments and MEPs (see above). What is more, Bild updated the story on 27 January to include information from the Commission and there has also been  a detailed response – in German like the original Bild story the Sun has picked up – on the website of the Commission’s Berlin office.


EU toy safety requirements are amongst the strictest in the world, especially on the use of chemicals in toys. The European Commission makes no apology for this. It wants to ensure that all toys, be they crayons or teddy bears and whether produced in the EU or imported, are safe for children.

For the EU single market and customs union to work, there need to be common rules allowing goods and services to be traded across national borders without time consuming and expensive checks that would lead to consumers paying more.

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Please note that all statements in all entries were correct on the date of publication given. However, older archived posts are not systematically updated in the light of later developments, for example changes to EU law.

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