'Unsafe' loom band charms removed from The Entertainer shelves

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Media captionSome charms were found to contain up to 40% phthalates

Toy retailer The Entertainer has withdrawn loom band charms from sale after they were found to contain high levels of cancer-causing chemicals.

Tests showed one charm contained 40% of banned phthalates, a chemical that makes plastic flexible, with EU law stating 0.1% is the legal limit.

The retailer said the charms were removed from sale nationwide after it was given the test results.

Different coloured "loom bands" can be woven into bracelets and charms added.

The recent craze among children for the plastic bracelets started in the US.

Potentially damaging

The Birmingham Assay Office tested the charms after BBC Midlands Today found the items on sale in stores in the West Midlands.

Image caption The chain is offering refunds to customers

The packets had foreign writing on them and the CE stamp indicating they were within European safety law.

Phthalates can be found in carpets, wall boards, car upholstery and fittings and certain cosmetics and pharmaceutical drugs.

About seven have been banned under EU legislation for being potentially damaging due to their carcinogenic properties.

The Birmingham Assay Office, which independently tests fashion and jewellery accessories, said it had found two banned phthalates, which can be dangerous if ingested over a long period of time.

Tester Marion Wilson said: "Phthalates will get into your system through sucking and obviously a charm hanging off a bracelet is a very high risk item, a thing most likely to suck just as you're fiddling with it.

Image caption The packets had EU safety stamps on them

"That's why we felt they were very dangerous.

'Number one priority'

"But we are aware many retailers act responsibly... and there is a huge amount of legislation for them to comply with and keeping up with it is hard.

"I am sympathetic with what they have to do."

Tests revealed the charms contained varying amounts of the banned phthalates, ranging from 1% to 40%.

In a statement, the chain said: "It was brought to our attention that loom charms purchased from one of our stores may contain [banned] phthalates.

"At The Entertainer, children's safety is our number one priority so as a precautionary measure we have removed all loom charms from sale with immediate effect whilst we conduct a full investigation.

"Any concerned customers will be offered a full refund or exchange in any of our stores."

Birmingham Trading Standards said it would be carrying out its own sampling of retailers across the city as well as liaising with colleagues in other local authorities.

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