While concerns have been raised over the potential risks of loom bands, new research has revealed they could be far more dangerous than previously thought.
The Assay Office Birmingham, a testing house for jewellery, has found worryingly high levels of phthalates in loom band charms submitted by a number of manufacturers.
Phthalates are suspected carcinogens and are known to disturb the endocrine system in both humans and animals. They are commonly used in plastic products, but can enter the body if they come in contact with saliva or sweat.
Though the results in question apply to only certain loom charm manufacturers, which cannot be named due to legal restrictions, the level of phthalates potentially present in the charms is cause for concern. The limit of phthalates permitted by EU regulations is 0.1% by weight , but the failed loom charms contained over 50% by weight of the chemicals.
Manufacturers have no legal responsibility to send their products for testing, says Assay Office spokesperson Marion Wilson. “While diligent suppliers are expected to send in all products for testing, there is no legal obligation to do so. Many companies we work with are based in the Far East and we have no way of ensuring all products are sent for testing.”
However once a company is aware that a product does not comply with EU regulations, they are then obliged to remove that product from shelves. “Suppliers do not send us their products expecting them to fail – they send them to us to ensure they are safe to be sold,” says Wilson.
She also added that while it was loom band charms that were tested, there is also a high chance that loom bands themselves could contain similar levels of the chemical.
Family GP, Dr Eleanor Galvin says that although phthalates can break down quite quickly in the environment, it is difficult to know exactly how safe your child’s toys are. “Parents should make wise choices about where to purchase loom charms and bands from, as a recognised retailer is always a far safer option.”
Popular loom band retailer Claire’s Accessories were unaware of the Assay Office’s results but say that their own in-house safety standards are very high.
“We have our own Quality Control team here in the UK who run tests on products before they reach the shelves... All of our products are meticulously tested for phthalates and we stock the official patented Rainbow Looms which ensure a high quality,” says Claire’s Press Officer, Josie Smith.
Argos and Smyths Toys were contacted, but have yet to respond.
MummyPages’ mum-in-residence Laura Haugh says the safest move for now is to avoid using loom band charms altogether until we know which manufacturers are to blame.
“The new research is extremely concerning,” she says. “Our advice is to remove the loom band charms from your child's craft activities until all retailers can fully assure us that they are safe to use.”
12th August 2014 Update: Argos have been in touch to say: “Customer safety is our highest priority and we have extremely rigorous quality checks in place for all of the toys we sell.  We can confirm that all loom band products available from Argos have been fully tested for phthalates and are compliant with EU legislation.” Smyths Toys have also been in contact to note that "all products we stock, including the various range of Loom Band products, fully comply with EU regulation."
15th August 2014 Update: Toymaster Ireland have contacted us to say that, "Toymaster, who have 33 stores across Ireland, only stock product that is compliant with EU regulations." Dealz have been in contact to state that they "have taken the findings regarding loom bands very seriously and as a result are investigating with suppliers that none of the products stocked contain phthalates... Test results are expected back early next week."