Children scooters are widely popular but if these children favorites of a seemingly simple built and easy control should become defective in the construction or the material used, they could pose a significant safety hazard. A Consumer Council test has shown that over half of the models failed to comply fully with the European toy safety standards. Not only do they pose injury risk to a child’s fingers, but also the steering tube and platform of some models were insufficient in strength, resulting in breakage and collapse. Parents of young children must not take this potential hazard lightly. Furthermore, in the majority of the models, the material used for the handle grip was detected with PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons), with 10 of them exceeding the upper limit of the voluntary German Certification Scheme GS Mark, posing risk of skin irritation to children and even dermatitis.
Included in the 15 test samples were 4 of the 2-wheel and 11 of the 3-wheel types with label claims to carry weight of 20 kg to 65 kg and ranging in price from $198 to $850. The test focused on 3 parts: mechanical and physical performance, migration of 19 elements and handle grip’s PAHs content. Among the 15 models, 8 could not fully comply with the European Toy Safety Standard EN 71-Part 1 requirements in performance and design that could potentially lead to injury to the children when an accident occurs.
The body construction of a children scooter is the top priority in safety consideration. The steering tube which controls the scooter is an important component – it adjusts the height, steers its direction, supports part of the child’s body weight, and in the event of an emergency absorb most part of the impact or pressure. The test found 5 models to be deficient failing to comply with the required standard – the steering tubes of 2 models resulted in breakage and collapse after the tests and in 1 model the locking device to prevent the steering tube from folding up was damaged. Further 2 other models’ platform were found broken. The Council is deeply concerned about the carrying capacity and strength of children scooters as any breakage or collapse to the steering tube and platform could lead to young children losing balance and falling overboard resulting in injury.
In addition, the test found room for improvement in the body construction of 5 models – the gap between the body and the wheels has a width from 5 mm to 12 mm which could hurt a child’s fingers wandering accidentally into the space.
The Consumer Council is emphatic about the importance of the scooter design to ensure the safety of children. According to the test, in 3 of the models the diameter at the tip of the handle grip was smaller than 40 mm required by the European Toy Safety standard. In the event the scooter overturns the sharp tip of the grip could cause potential injury to the child. Further, in 4 models, the diameter of the front wheel was smaller than the minimum toy safety standard of 120 mm; the small front wheel could get trapped into the holes or crevices of road, causing the rider to fall. The Council has referred the test results to the Customs and Excise Department for follow-up action.
None of the tested models’ handle grip materials that can come into contact with skin were detected with any of the 8 types of PAHs restricted for use by the European Union’s REACH regulation. According to the data on animal studies, these 8 PAHs were found to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to the test animals, and classified by the EU as presumed to have carcinogenic potential for humans.
The German’s voluntary certification scheme GS Mark is even more strict with regard to PAHs content in toys. Aside from restricting the 8 REACH PAHs, the scheme included 10 more PAHs and set limit on the total content of all these 18 PAHs. With reference to the Germany’s Product Safety Commission testing and assessment document of PAHs, the Council tested the 18 PAHs content of the materials used in the grip handle. All but one of the models were found to contain PAHs; the total sum of PAHs in 10 models (1.2 to 5.8 mg/kg) and the naphthalene contents in 8 models (1.2 to 5.8 mg/kg) both exceeded the German GS Mark requirement in respect of toy materials with intended long-term skin contact of 1 mg/kg.
Children will hold the grip handles when riding a scooter, it may cause skin contact with and even absorption of the PAHs present on the handles. Some of the tested models’ grip handles were detected naphthalene which is a volatile substance and belongs to a low molecular weight PAHs. When the skin is in contact with naphthalene may potentially cause skin irritation which may result in dermatitis for allergic individuals.
There is no set upper limit of PAHs content on toys and children’s products in Hong Kong. Children could come in contact with PAHs from various routes in daily life, it may affect their health in the long run. The Council is calling upon the industry to minimize the PAHs content in toys and children’s products to safeguard the health of children.
In the choice and use of children’s scooters parents are urged to take heed of the following:
- Read carefully to ensure the completeness of the operation manual and labelling of the scooter; and follow the product instructions on the recommended usage age, carrying capacity in the choice of a suitable scooter for your child.
- The skills needed to control the balance of a 2-wheel and a 3-wheel scooter are different, parents should base on their children balancing controlling ability to choose accordingly.
- Make sure that your children use suitable protective gear such as helmet, knee and elbow protective shields, sports shoes etc.; parents should be nearby to provide supervision to ensure safety.
- Guide children to choose areas of few people traffic and relatively even road surface; avoid busy roads, sidewalks or slippery areas to ride scooters.
- Teach children to wash hands immediately after scooter ride to prevent absorbing harmful PAHs or heavy metals.
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