Loom bands, those colourful American fripperies much beloved by young people around the world have been identified as a serious potential health risk. Birmingham Assay Office, an independent laboratory in the UK, has tested Loom bands and found them to contain over 500 times the recommended safe level of phthalates, a known hormone inhibitor. The laboratory was at pains to point out that the shipment tested with these extreme levels would not have been delivered to market, but its spokesperson expressed concern about the dangers posed by untested shipments being delivered to shops.
The chemical, which is easily absorbed through the skin, can cause detrimental health effects if a person is exposed to significant levels over a period of time. Concerns for young people wearing these bands (and especially the charms attached to them) include adverse effects on their fertility levels and breast, prostate and ovarian cancer.
Tests carried out in Switzerland under the auspices of Swiss consumer group, Fédération Romande des Consommateurs (FEC) found that 20% of the elastic bracelets and their charms being marketed in this country contain at least 50% more of the organic chemicals than permitted.
The Irish Times quotes Dr Craig Slattery and Dr Tara McMorrow, lecturers in pharmacology and toxicology from University College Dublin saying “phthalates are so widely used in consumer products that exposure to these chemicals is practically unavoidable”.
The original licensed product, the Rainbow Loom Band, has been extensively tested and is certified as being phthalate-free,” they said, however copies may not be. There are different viewpoints on whether or not the “CE” mark is a reliable mark of safety. The Irish experts recommend that consumers only purchase items which bear the appropriate “CE” logo, while the FEC states in contrast that many bands that have failed its tests have “CE” marks.
But of concern is that despite identifying products that fail tests, the FEC does not inform the general public of delinquent brand names or producers. They do inform retailers, but is this really enough of a safe-guard when the widespread health of children is at risk?