Loom band charms claimed safe in NZ
MICHAEL FOREMAN AND JODY O'CALLAGHAN
One of the largest local suppliers of children's bracelet charms says it is confident its products are safe despite a recent contamination scare involving similar products in the United Kingdom.
This week the UK's largest toy retailer said it was removing from its shelves all charms for bracelets known as loom bands after some were found to contain high levels of potentially harmful chemicals.
The charms are designed to be attached to loom band bracelets, which have become a craze among children around the world.
The Entertainer, which operates 92 toy stores in Britain, said it had stopped selling the charms after tests carried out by the BBC's Midlands Today programme revealed that some contained high levels of phthalates.
Phthalates are used in a wide variety of products to make plastics more flexible but their use in children's toys has been restricted in the European Union since 1999.
High doses of phthalates have been shown to disrupt hormones and cause birth defects in rodents.
In a statement to the BBC, The Entertainer said that it had removed all loom charms from sale as a precautionary measure while it conducted an investigation.
The charm contamination incident comes soon after the New Zealand government issued a warning to parents about the potential dangers of loom bands.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment cited two UK incidents involving loom bands in a Consumer Affairs column last July.
In one case, a boy was blinded after his brother accidentally pinged a band in his eye. In the other, a boy nearly lost two fingers after falling asleep with the bands wrapped around him.
''The rubber bands used in looming are small and pose a potential choking risk to young children, especially to children 36 months and younger,'' the ministry warned.
''The bands can also cause circulatory problems if children wrap the bands around their fingers for any length of time.''
Trading Standards recommended that the bands, also known as rainbow looms, be kept out of reach of very young children, and safe use be explained to them.
''Like any toy with small parts, parents need to be aware of the potential dangers if young children are left unattended.
''As always, there's no substitute for supervision no matter how 'safe' a toy may appear.''
Parents needed to make sure children knew not to wrap the bands around fingers or any other appendages, it said.
Loom bands and charms are widely available in New Zealand at outlets ranging from national chains such as The Warehouse and Toyworld to individual traders on Trade Me.
The Warehouse, which imports loom bands and charms from a United States-based manufacturer, said it worked closely with all suppliers to ensure that their products met product safety laws and regulations.
''We have assurances from our supplier, Cra-Z-Art, that the loom bands and charms they supply are completely safe and do not contain phthalates,'' said The Warehouse spokeswoman Joanne Fullam.
''Furthermore, the packaging very clearly states that the charms are suitable for children aged eight years and over and the looms for children aged five and over.''
Toyworld was approached for comment but did not respond in time for publication.