A number of recent media reports have made incorrect claims about the new Toy safety Directive, which entered into force on 20 July 2011 (IP/11/908). Several media have falsely claimed that the Directive would ban children under 8 from inflating balloons without adult supervision, because of the danger that young children could chew or swallow the balloon.
Other inaccurate reports have stated that children under 14 would be banned from using paper blow outs. To correct these claims, below is the true scope of the Directive.
Clarification of the case: EU toy safety rules on balloons
In line with EU toy safety rules in place since 1998, balloons made of latex carry a warning aiming to prevent children from choking or suffocating by from inhaling or swallowing uninflated or broken balloons.
Stronger balloons do not need to carry the warning.
This warning recommends adult supervision, it does not forbid children under 8 from inflating balloons.
The reason the warning was introduced and has been maintained in the new Directive is due to several fatal accidents involving balloons. The purpose is to draw parents’ attention to the risks of choking or suffocation that exist.
The new directive 2009/48 and related standards maintain this warning in order to provide the same high level of protection as in the past.
“Warning! Children under eight years can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons. Adult supervision required. Keep uninflated balloons from children. Discard broken balloons at once.”
The previous toy safety directive 88/378 contained essential safety requirements aiming to prevent children from risk of choking / suffocation:
- Toys for children under 3 must be of such dimensions as to prevent them from being inhaled/ swallowed.
- Toys must not present a risk of suffocation.
These requirements are general, and technical specifications on how to comply with them are described in the standards (namely standard EN 71-1). The standard required for balloons is to bear the above warning.
A balloon manufacturer is deemed to meet the essential safety requirement once he complies with the standard’s requirements (affixing the required warning).