Children's exposure to hazardous brominated flame retardants in plastic toys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Oluwatoyin Fatunsin
  • Temilola Oluseyi
  • Andrew Turner

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Lagos
  • Univ Plymouth


We report concentrations of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in 23 plastic samples from 20 new and second-hand children's toys sourced from the UK that had been previously shown to be Br-positive by XRF. The results reinforce existing evidence that the recycling of BFR-treated electronic plastics has led to the unintentional BFR contamination of articles not required to be flame-retarded. The principal BFRs detected were PBDEs (and in particular BDE-209), HBCDD and TBBP-A. PBDEs were detected in all samples with a maximum concentration of BDE-209 of 2500 mg/kg, and while TBBP-A was detected in 11 samples with a maximum concentration of 3100 mg/kg. HBCDD was detected in 14 cases and was present in four toys at concentrations (139–840 mg/kg) that would currently prevent their sale on the EU market. While estimated exposures to PBDEs via accidental ingestion of toy plastic fell well below USEPA reference doses, a child weighing 8.67 kg and ingesting 8 mg/day of a toy (the default assumption of the European Commission's Toy Safety Directive for scraped-off toy material) contaminated at our arithmetic mean concentration would be exposed to 0.2 ng/kg bw/day BDE-99. This compares closely to a health-based limit value (HBLV) proposed in The Netherlands of 0.23–0.30 ng/kg bw/day BDE-99. Of greater concern, the same child playing with a toy contaminated at the maximum concentration in this study would be exposed to 1.4 ng/kg bw/day BDE-99, thereby exceeding the HBLV. This paper is the first to consider BFR exposure via incidental ingestion of plastic from both contemporary and historical toys, revealing it to be considerable and for some children their most significant pathway of exposure.


Original languageEnglish
Article number137623
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date29 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2020


  • HBCDD, Human exposure, PBDEs, POPs, Recycled plastics, TBBP-A