As of late there has been a lot of conflicting news in circulation about loom band and phthalates – a harmful chemical commonly found in plastic products. Looms bands have become a nationwide craze; popular among children and adults alike. Therefore it is a concern for us, the Consumer’s Association of Penang, that there are such contradictory reports on whether or not loom bands are safe. We believe it is crucial that all loom bands be tested and the results of said test be released to the public so consumers may know what is safe and what is not.
The loom band product was first created in the United States, under the brand name Rainbow Loom, where it quickly increased in popularity and soon become a worldwide phenomenon. Recently though, loom bands have been banned in the United Kingdom due to high levels of phthalates detected in the loom bands. Toys in many counties are only allowed to contain 0.1% phthalates but many brands of loom bands in the market were found to contain from up to 40% - 50% phthalates. It is important to note that loom bands that contain high levels of phthalates are cheap no name copycats.
Nevertheless, while the United Kingdom has banned loom bands because of the high level of phthalates in copycat loom bands, our Director General of Health, Datuk Dr. Noor Hisham Bin Abdullah, says that any safety hazard risk involving loom bands only apply to young children who chew and suck on the loom bands for extended periods of time. He further states that there is no safety hazard risk for older children and adults and concerns about skin coming into contact with loom bands is unnecessary. There is no need to ban loom bands because they are not classified as toys in Malaysia but are accessories or costume jewellery; nonetheless parents should keep loom bands away from children ages 4 years and below.
We can clearly see that there is no conclusive take on the safety of loom bands in general and this is scary because the chemical that it contains, phthalates, is harmful when large quantities of it are present in the body. Many studies have been carried out to determine the possible effects of phthalates on human beings and the results have shown that many conditions can be linked to the presence of phthalates in people. Some of the conditions include childhood obesity, allergies, damage to the liver and testes, a higher risks of developing diabetes in adulthood, low birth weight in infants, symptoms of ADHD, breast cancer and impaired male reproductive development to name a few. In short, phthalates are carcinogenic, mutagenic and can cause endocrine disruption and a variety of reproductive issues.
While sifting through this jumble of inconsistent information there were a few things that stood out to us and they are that:
1. Most of the loom bands in circulation in Malaysia are the same type of loom bands that were being sold in other countries like the United Kingdom which has now banned loom bands. They are no name cheap imitations that can be bought at minimal costs and the likelihood of a product that is made cheaply containing high levels of harmful chemicals is usually very high.
2. The packaging of most of the loom bands sold in Malaysia are not in the local language. Products sold here must be properly labelled in the local language so that consumers can make informed decisions on possible purchases. People should know certain things before they purchase a product such as if there are any allergens present, what chemicals are present in the product, if there are any warnings that need to be heeded and where the product is made.
3. The loom band product was originally created and marketed as a toy in the US, therefore the whole world recognises loom bands as toys. Since it was intended to be a toy, why are we not labelling it a toy like all the other countries? If Malaysia did the same, loom bands would fall under the Mandatory Safety Standards for Toys 2010 and there would be no confusion as to the safety of the product.
In light of all this we would like to stress the following:
-- The Ministry of Health to conduct test on all loom bands in the market and to release the results to the public to abate the current confusion.
-- That loom bands be withdrawn from the market until they have been found to be safe.
-- We caution parents and children to not buy ready-made loom bands or loom band kits until the safety status of the product is no longer dubious.
Letter to the Press, 23 September 2014