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New Which? Research has revealed the hidden dangers found in some toys bought through online marketplaces which could endanger a child playing with them.
Toys bought through online marketplaces should be just as safe as a toy bought in a shop or through a recognised online retailer.
But in our test of 28 toys bought from AliExpress, Amazon Marketplace, eBay and Wish we found that 12 toys – or more than 40% of those tested – failed standard safety tests and would be dangerous for children to play with. And some toys failed safety tests multiple times for different hazards.
- 12 of the 28 toys tested failed safety tests with some failing multiple times.
- 10 toys presented a choking risk for a child.
- Two toys posed a strangulation risk.
- Two toys had either swallowable magnets or accessible batteries that could cause serious internal harm to a child if ingested.
- In all we found more than 50 safety failures in the 12 toys that failed safety tests.
One Doctor’s set bought through a seller on Wish was overflowing with dangerous toys that could hurt a child.
We counted more than 20 choke hazards and found three sharp edges which could cut a toddler’s finger.
Read our guide to find out how to childproof your home.
Watch: the dangers of magnets in toys
Our video shows the safety problems that magnets in toys can pose to children. And we explain what to do if your child has swallowed a button battery.
Which toys failed the safety tests?
While 16 of the toys we tested were perfectly safe and passed all of our tests, 12 toys were found to have at least one serious safety problem with many having more.
These are the dangerous toys to avoid.
Doctor’s set, bought from Wish
This Doctor’s playset is filled with unsafe toys. Play scissors and a notepad broke to reveal sharp points, and the toy plasters and pills presented choke hazards and are too small for children under three years of age to play with safely.
Many other parts of the 51-piece set – described as a toy for a baby or a toddler on Wish – simply broke into small and dangerous parts far too easily, presenting at least 20 potential choke hazards.
Doctor’s set, bought from AliExpress
(Seller: Mandye Store)
This is another Doctor’s set, this time bought through a seller on AliExpress, that’s overflowing with safety concerns.
We counted more than 10 choke hazards in our tests, mostly caused by bits of the set breaking too easily into parts that can be swallowed.
We also found sharp edges on some of the toys following our impact tests and the overly long cord on the Doctor’s coat is a strangulation hazard.
Infinitoo magnetic building blocks, bought from Amazon
(Seller: Bala EU)
Magnetic building blocks sounded like fun until we tested them. The products weren’t strong enough to make it through a standard impact test.
The building blocks broke open spilling out tiny magnets that posed a choking and ingestion risk to children.
We also found that the magnets were almost four times as powerful as they are permitted to be according to the British test standard.
Toy tablet, bought from Wish
This tablet looks like fun for kids looking to draw and write on.
But in our safety tests we found that the tip of the stylus broke off too easily and this could be a choking hazard for a young child.
Also, the battery compartment cover was too easy to remove, providing easy access to the 3v CR2025 button battery.
Toy dog, bought from Wish
This cute and furry toy dog came with a pendant hanging around its neck and this is just the kind of thing that a child may pull at.
In our tension test, we found that the pendant tore and that the bits that broke off could be a choke hazard for a child.
Toy dog, bought from eBay
The dark loving eyes and cute nose are adorable on this toy dog but both could prove fatal for a child.
In our safety tests, both the eyes and the nose detached too easily and both – as well as the hardened lumps of glue that tried to hold them in place – could be swallowed causing a child to choke.
Caterpillar crib toy, bought from Wish
The curly and colourful crib toy and rattle comes with three hanging ribbons with soft toys attached at the end.
As the ribbons are close together, they can come into contact with each other and become tangled, posing a strangulation risk for a baby. That’s why this toy failed the British standard test.
Hanging crib monkey rattle, bought from Wish
This is another crib toy which fell to bits far too easily and was an obvious fail for us. It’s a soft monkey with a rattle and a banana-shaped teether.
In our tests, the banana broke away from the rest of the toy, leaving a tear in the fabric of the monkey’s arm.
A baby could get its finger stuck inside the toy or could scoop out the stuffing inside and choke on it.
Baby sensory box, bought from eBay
This box of sensory delights for a baby was anything but delightful when we safety-tested the contents.
Among the concerns our testing has exposed are a rattle that broke too easily releasing small balls, which could be a choke hazard.
Plus, brightly coloured ribbons attached to a wooden ring are too long and present a strangulation risk.
We also found an identical box listed on Etsy and have alerted them about this.
Rainbow ribbon ring, bought from eBay
This is a ring with multi-coloured ribbons attached for babies to play with but worryingly in our impact test, it broke into small pieces that a baby could choke on.
And during a standard tension test, we found that the ribbons stretched to beyond the permitted length of 30cm, making them a strangulation hazard.
Ring teether with bells and ribbons, bought from AliExpress
(Seller: Babycut2 store)
This ring and rattle wasn’t strong enough to survive a standard impact test without breaking into bits small enough to be swallowed by a baby.
And the ribbons stretch to more than 44cm when put through a tension test – this is 14 cm longer than is allowed and presents a clear strangulation risk.
Toy phone , bought from AliExpress
(Seller: Joyfia Official Store)
This musical toy phone for toddlers isn’t safe. In the British standard test we carried out, the laminated sticker (below) found on the outer case of the clam shell design came away with little force and, because of its size, it could prove to be a choke hazard for a young child.
So, even though in other ways this toy would be fun for kids to play with, it’s a definite fail for us because of the sticker problem.
The British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) found similar problems with toys bought from online marketplaces when it investigated them in 2020.
Natasha Crookes of the BTHA told us: ‘We’ve been testing toys for three years and we’re still finding unsafe and illegal toys sold by third-party sellers via online platforms. Last year we found 86% of the toys we tested were illegal and 60% were unsafe.
‘We can’t emphasise enough how careful consumers should be when purchasing toys via online platforms. Currently the platforms have no legal responsibility for checking the safety of the products that are sold before they are listed.
‘Many products come from overseas, directly into the hands of UK consumers, and often no one has checked they are safe before they are given to children to play with. Try to buy from trusted brands and sellers that have a track record of toy sales, and when they arrive check them over before you hand them to your child.’
How to spot a dangerous toy
Here are our top tips for how to identify dangerous toys.
Price – is it cheaper than you expected?
If the toy you’re buying is noticeably cheaper than you expected to be, or cheap compared to other branded versions of it, it might be unsafe.
Look and feel of unsafe toys
Unsafe toys may come without packaging, warnings about the age of child the toy is intended for, or even instructions.
So, if the packaging isn’t what you expected and the instructions are minimal or missing, it could be dangerous.
Play with the toy yourself
Get your hands on the toy and play with it. If it feels a bit lightweight or insubstantial, or you spot any small parts (choke hazards) that are included with it, the alarms bells should start ringing.
Are the batteries fitted securely?
Check that any batteries are screwed in or that removing the battery cover needs two movements to happen at the same time. Batteries, particularly button batteries, can be very dangerous for young children. Read more on this, below.
Look for potentially dangerous small parts
Look for small parts that could be a choke hazard for young children or babies. You can buy a tool – a small parts cylinder – to help with this for £5 online.
If the parts fit wholly in the small parts cylinder with none poking out of the top, and the toy is for a child under three, this presents a choke hazard and the toy shouldn’t be sold in the UK.
Search for small parts cylinder online or go to Safetots to buy one.
Watch your child opening and playing with a new toy for the first time
Keep an eye on your child when they are first opening and playing with a toy for the first time, to make sure that the toy doesn’t break into a hundred pieces the moment it’s played with.
Look for the CE mark, age-labelling and question what you see
The CE mark should give you confidence that the toy you’ve bought meets all the legal requirements to be sold in the UK.
But, we’ve seen many unsafe products carrying what we believe to be fake CE markings.
So, if a toy has a CE mark, but the packaging is poor, the instructions are missing and it feels a bit cheap, there’s a chance that it could be a fake CE mark and dangerous.
Toys should also be marked clearly with the age of child they are designed for.
So, if you buy a toy and find that there’s no age guidance provided, it could prove to be unsafe.
A spokesperson for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) told us: ‘When buying toys, always make sure that they are age-appropriate for your child, that they are bought from reputable retailers, and that the instructions are followed.
‘Although toys are involved in more than 40,000 accidents each year, their safety is only part of the problem. Many accidents involving toys occur when people trip over them and when babies and toddlers play with toys intended for older children.’
Why are button batteries and magnets in toys such a problem?
Dangers of button batteries
Button batteries can be a serious problem for a child if they are swallowed. In most cases, a swallowed button battery will pass straight through a child.
But, if one gets caught in a child’s throat or leaks in their stomach, it could quickly cause chemical burns, serious injuries or even death.
This is why button battery compartments should either be secured with a screw or need two simultaneous movements to open them.
Why are magnets dangerous?
As well as being a potential choking hazard, magnets are a problem if a child swallows them due to the way they attract other metallic objects.
If a child swallows two or more magnets, or a magnet and another metallic object, they can stick together in the gut, creating blockages, twisting, compression of the gut and perforation which would need surgery.
What should you do if your child has swallowed something or is choking?
We spoke to Emma Hammett from First Aid for Life about the dangers posed to children by button batteries and magnets in toys.
What to do if a child has swallowed a button battery or a magnet
Emma told us: ‘If you think your child has swallowed a button battery, take them to A&E to have an x-ray before having the battery removed. If you suspect your child has swallowed magnets or a magnet and other metallic objects, go to A&E and have an x-ray.
‘If magnets are found then a referral will be made for emergency surgery. Make sure you explain that magnets could be involved – the hospital will need to know to ensure that an MRI scan is avoided as this type of scan involves the use of strong magnetic fields.’
What to do if a child is choking
If your child is choking, try to remove the object if you can see it and if they are coughing, get them to continue as this could help to bring up the object.
If coughing isn’t working (it might be silent or they might not be breathing properly) call for help. If they are still conscious, but not coughing or not coughing effectively, use back blows to help dislodge the object.
How we tested the toys
All of the toys featured were tested to clauses from the toy safety standards BS EN 71-1 Safety of toys and BS EN 62115 Electric toys.
In these standard tests we looked for:
- Sharp edges and points that a child cut hurt themselves on
- Small parts that could cause a choking risk
- Cords or lengths of fabric that could pose a strangulation risk
- Warning notices on the toys
- Toys that used magnets
- Small batteries in toys
- How robust the toys are with standard impact and tension tests
How we selected toys for testing
We selected popular types of toys selling through four popular online marketplaces. All of the toys featured included at least one of either batteries, cords, magnets or small parts.
We then tested to see that these parts of the toy met the requirements of the relevant toy safety standard.
Twelve dangerous toys removed from sale
Following our investigation, all listings for the 12 dangerous toys were removed by AliExpress, Amazon, eBay and Wish.
Sue Davies, head of consumer protection policy at Which?, said: ‘Many parents will be appalled by our research which has revealed that some toys bought from online marketplaces are failing to meet safety standards and could pose a serious safety risk to children playing with them.
‘Consumers should be able to trust that products sold in the UK are safe and meet the standards required, yet a woeful lack of checks and monitoring by online marketplaces means dangerous toys are entering people’s homes.
‘It is absolutely crucial that online marketplaces are urgently given greater legal responsibility for the safety of products sold on their sites so that consumers are far better protected from dangerous and illegal items.’
What the online marketplaces told us
An Amazon spokesperson said: ‘Safety is important to Amazon and we want customers to shop with confidence on our stores. We have proactive measures in place to prevent suspicious or non-compliant products from being listed and we monitor the products sold in our stores for product safety concerns. When appropriate, we remove a product from the store, reach out to sellers, manufacturers, and government agencies for additional information, or take other actions. If customers have concerns about an item they’ve purchased, we encourage them to contact our Customer Service directly so we can investigate and take appropriate action.’
eBay told us: ‘We take the safety of our users extremely seriously and work closely with authorities including Trading Standards to help ensure sellers and listings on eBay comply with laws and regulations. We have removed the products identified by Which? and taken the appropriate action on the sellers. We have filters in places which automatically block listings which are unsafe or do not comply with our policies. These blocked six million unsafe listings from making it onto site in 2020. Our teams also work around the clock as an additional safety net to manually review and remove anything which may not have been caught by our filters.’
A spokesperson for Wish said: ‘All merchants on our platform are required to adhere to local laws and safety standards where their goods are sold. In the rare instance where a product falls foul of those standards, it is promptly removed and, where appropriate, the merchant in question faces a potential suspension from the platform.’
What the sellers and manufacturers told us
We also reached out to the sellers we bought the toys from and offered them the opportunity to comment. But, as we went to press, none of the sellers or the one manufacturer we were able to contact had provided a comment for publication.