The EU is looking to prohibit chemicals deemed unsafe for children -- especially ones that disrupt growth hormones -- in imported toys under new rules proposed Friday by the European Commission.
China is overwhelmingly the biggest manufacturer of toys imported into the European Union, accounting for 83 percent of the value of toys brought in in 2021, according to the official EU statistics agency Eurostat.
"Enforcement will be stepped up thanks to digital technologies, allowing unsafe toys to be more easily detected, notably at EU borders," EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton said.
The commission's proposed Toy Safety Regulation aims to address loopholes in existing EU legislation dating from 2009 that dictates safety standards in toys sold across the 27-nation bloc.
It also seeks to update the rules to better address online sales.
A commission statement emphasised that toys bought in the EU are "already among the safest ones in the world".
But it said more needed to be done, given "the high number of unsafe toys that are still sold in the EU, especially online," and particularly imported ones.
The proposed revision zeroes in on "chemicals that affect the endocrine system, and chemicals affecting the respiratory system or are toxic to a specific organ" in toys.
The endocrine system comprises glands that produce hormones. In children, chemicals that disrupt its normal operation can affect growth, thyroid functions and puberty, and contribute to diabetes or obesity.
To ensure that all toys sold in the European Union are safe, the commission is suggesting a requirement for importers to procure "digital product passports" that would assist in inspecting shipments.
The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) strongly welcomed the commission's initiative and noted that if it became EU law "it would be the first time ever -- worldwide -- that both known and suspected hormone-disrupting chemicals are banned from an entire product group".
It said a consumer group's test of babies' teething toys in May found 11 out of 20 of them released such chemicals.
The head of the European Consumer Voice in Standardisation, Stephen Russell, said: "For years, we and BEUC have criticised the all-too-weak provision of toy safety legislation when it comes to chemicals.
"It is very welcome to see the European Commission now proposes to phase out hormone-disrupting chemicals from an entire product group."