Here’s an interesting one for you: Are vintage toys harmful to your health?

Yes? No? You’ve never really thought about it?

Well, back in 2018 the BBC ran an article on this very subject. At the time, scientists had conducted a study on second-hand toys, and the study suggested some vintage toys could pose a significant health risk.

Scientists from the University of Plymouth, tested 200 used plastic toys, taken from homes, nurseries and thrift shops within the South-West area of the UK. They found traces of nine hazardous elements in 20 of them.


The tested toys ranged from figures and puzzles to trains and cars. The hazardous materials found in 10% of the toys included antimony, barium, bromine, cadium, chromium, selenium and lead.

According to the University’s report, which was published in Environmental Study and Technology, red, yellow and black plastics were by far the worst culprits. And yes, this did include Lego.


Speaking at the time of the study, Dr Andrew Turner of the University of Plymouth, said:

“Lego bricks from the ‘70s and ‘80s are the big fail. Toys in those days weren’t tested and now we’re using them and handing them down.”

So, does this mean we all have to put down our old Lego bricks? Not necessarily so, but we should be mindful of the age of some of the bricks, as well as other old toys, if we are buying them second hand.

Mark Gardiner, of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said: “Any goods that are bought second-hand are not going to have the same safety assurances.

“Parents should weigh up these risks, especially when giving their children toys that are very old and could have also mechanically deteriorated over time.”


He added:

“If the toys do indeed pose a risk to children, then the products can be removed from the market.”

So, what does this mean for parents or collectors? Well, nothing at present – so don’t panic – but do be cautious.


The study was conducted in 2018, it’s now 2020 and there has been no major toy recall. Plus, in an age of COVID-19, parents and collectors are very, very mindful of health risks when it comes to toys, so this isn’t something that is likely to be ignored.

It’s also worth highlighting that modern toys are vigorously tested before they hit shelves, so new products should not encounter the same problems as those found in the study. This study was purely about vintage toys, so if you’re a parent and you’re thinking of treating your kids to some toys, then modern toys will be fine.

As for collectors, it may mean we all need to do a little more research about some of the older toy lines we pick up. Not all older toys are harmful, the study only said some can be.

So, if you are looking to collect some really, really old toys, then maybe read up on the line before you buy. Your health and the health of those around you is always the most important thing to consider.

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