– Children to be banned from blowing up balloons, under EU safety rules (Telegraph, Oct. 9, 2011)
Children are to be banned from taking part in traditional Christmas games, from blowing up balloons to blowing on party whistles, because of new EU safety rules that have just entered into force.
The EU toy safety directive, agreed and implemented by Government, states that balloons must not be blown up by unsupervised children under the age of eight, in case they accidentally swallow them and choke.
Despite having been popular favourites for generations of children, party games including whistles and magnetic fishing games are to be banned because their small parts or chemicals used in making them are decreed to be too risky.
Apparently harmless toys that children have enjoyed for decades are now regarded by EU regulators as posing an unacceptable safety risk.
Whistle blowers, that scroll out into a a long coloured paper tongue when sounded – a party favourite at family Christmas meals – are now classed as unsafe for all children under 14.
The new rules are designed to protect children from the chance that a piece of the whistle could be swallowed and cause choking.
The EU directive will also force manufacturers and retailers to attach safety warnings to toys hitherto regarded as harmless.
Official guidance notes: “For latex balloons there must be a warning that children under eight years must be supervised and broken balloons should be discarded.” Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Kent, warned that toy safety bans were part of a trend to micro-manage children’s lives at the expense of allowing them to explore, learn and have fun through play.
“Toys and activities, such as blowing up balloons, are part and parcel of the type of children’s play that helps them become independent and self-reliant,” he said.
“These bans diminish the experience, both of having fun and learning, by turning play into a danger zone with rules that stifle life and adventure for children.” Under the EU legislation, Britain will have to ensure that toys are not sold in shops unless they fully comply with the new safety requirements.
As well as new rules for balloons and party whistles, the EU legislation will impose restrictions on how noisy toys, including rattles or musical instruments, are allowed to be.
All teddie bears meant for children under the age of three will now have to be fully washable because EU regulators are concerned that dirty cuddly toys could spread disease and infection.
Paul Nuttall, a member of the European Parliament’s consumer safety committee, said the “kill joy” world of EU officialdom was being ill-equipped to understand the concept of children having fun.
“I would say that this is crackers but I sure children are banned from using them too. EU party poopers should not be telling families how to blow up balloons,” said the Ukip MEP.
British toy manufacturers are concerned that the new rules, which include defining colouring books and anything played with by under-14s, could drive up the price of Christmas presents because of the cost of safety tests.
But the European Commission has insisted that the new safety legislation was needed to prevent “horror stories”.
“These safety standards have been agreed by the UK together with the other EU member states in order to prevent every parent’s worst nightmare,” said a spokesman.
Another EU official admitted that the new regulations could be difficult to understand but insisted that safety experts knew best.
“You might say that small children have been blowing up balloons for generations, but not anymore and they will be safer for it,” said an official.