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Toys and finger paints containing lead and other elements

The mandatory standard for toys and finger paints containing lead and other elements came into effect on 1 January 2010.

Toys are a fundamental part of a child’s physical, mental, social, educational and emotional development. It is therefore vital that they are free of dangerous elements that could harm children.

Under the mandatory standard, children’s toys are products supplied new that are designed or clearly intended for use in play by children who are up to six years old. This includes finger paints for children. This mandatory standard excludes sporting goods, camping goods, bicycles, home and playground equipment, trampolines, electronic game units, models powered by combustion or steam engines, and fashion jewellery for children.

On this page

Dangerous elements

The elements known, at certain levels, to be most harmful to children playing with toys are:

  • antimony
  • arsenic
  • barium
  • cadmium
  • chromium
  • lead
  • mercury
  • selenium.

Lead and other elements can cause harm when consumed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Young children often place toys in their mouth to explore them by sucking, mouthing and chewing on them, so they are especially vulnerable to dangerous elements in toys.

Lead migration or migration of other elements

The term ‘lead migration’ is used to refer to how much lead is drawn out of an object or substance and absorbed by a person. The amount is known as the ‘migration level’. Similarly, there can be arsenic migration, mercury migration, chromium migration, etc.

The most common sources of lead poisoning in children are lead-based paints and contaminated air, water, soil, toys and cosmetics.

Hazards—Lead

Permanent damage to physical and mental health

Children can absorb up to 60% of the lead they’re exposed to. The most common sources of lead poisoning in children are lead-based paints and contaminated air, water, soil, toys and cosmetics.

If children swallow or chew on a toy containing lead, or if they inhale lead or absorb it through their skin, they can suffer significant and sometimes permanent health effects.

Physical health damage

  • hearing loss
  • slowed growth
  • central nervous system damage
  • organ damage.

Mental health damage

  • learning disorders
  • attention deficit disorders
  • behavioural problems.

Death

Children can die if they swallow or chew on a toy containing lead. They can also die if they inhale lead, or absorb lead through their skin.

Hazards—Other elements

Children can suffer similar health problems when exposed to the other elements listed previously.

Mandatory standard

This mandatory standard is based on Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 8124.3:2003 ‘Safety of toys, Part 3—Migration of certain elements’. Clause 4.4 covers ‘Safety of toys Part 7 – Finger paints’ .

AS/NZS 8124.3:2003 is a voluntary standard except for those sections specifically called up by the mandatory standard. 

For complete information about all mandatory requirements for toys with lead and other elements and finger paints for children you must read Consumer Protection Notice No. 1 of 2009. This information is essential to ensure you and your business comply.

The mandatory standard came into effect on 1 January 2010.

Does this apply to your business?

Under the ACL supply includes:

  • in relation to goods - (including re-supply) by way of sale, exchange, lease, hire or hire-purchase and
  • in relation to services - provide, grant of confer. 

This mandatory standard applies to anyone in the business of supplying toys, including:

  • manufacturers
  • importers
  • distributors
  • retailers
  • hirers.

To allow for staggered implementation, there are some cases where a mandatory standard or ban prescribes different compliance dates for the manufacturing, importing and supply of a product. Manufacturers, importers and distributors should check for this detail in the mandatory standard before embarking on production, importation or distribution of these goods.

Complying with the mandatory standard

For complete information about the mandatory requirements for toys with lead and other elements, you must read:

Suppliers may also find the Regulation impact statement — Limits on migration of lead and certain elements in children's toys helpful in understanding aspects of the mandatory standard.

Penalties and consequences

Supplying toys that do not comply with the mandatory standard can make you liable for heavy fines and product recalls. For more details view Penalties and consequences. 

Some key requirements

The requirements noted below are key requirements only. They may help to give suppliers a general idea of the detail they must look up in the mandatory standard. This information may also assist consumers when they are choosing toys or finger paints for children.

While we provide some advice on this page to help you understand aspects of the standard, suppliers must not rely on this information as a complete guide to compliance.

Migration levels for toys and finger paints

Elements
Product Antimony Arsenic Barium Cadmium Chromium Lead Mercury Selenium

Quantity
(mg/kg)

Toys
60
25
1000
75
60
90
60
500
Finger paints
10
10
350
15
25
25
10
50

Testing methods

The mandatory standard provides specific guidelines on how to test for lead and other elements in children's toys and finger paints.  To ensure their products comply with the standard, suppliers should organise this testing through specialist laboratories with the right skills, experience and equipment.

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