REPORT: CE Marking of Mylar foil balloons Definitions and Implications

CE Mark should be present on foil balloons, or on packaging at point of sale.Last year we were commissioned to write an objective report into toy safety standards and their impact specifically on Mylar foil balloons. The report was passed to NABAS (National Association for Balloon Artists and Suppliers), the balloon industry association in the UK in response to a flood of cheap poor quality products coming in from China.

The report set out to clarify the definitions of EU toy safety directives, specifically in relation to foil balloons, outlining the responsibilities for manufacturers, and sellers of product, and the implications.

The full report (18 pages, 1.2mb) can be downloaded here: CE Marking of Mylar Foil Balloons: Definitions and Implications

There were some interesting discoveries as a result of the investigation into the article:

  • Balloons that comply with the Law are typically manufactured within the European Union and the USA, whereas those that do not comply are typically made in China (and the far East). This also reflects on the physical quality of the products, with Chinese balloons deflating quickly due to poor seams from hand-sealing, and bad valves.
  • Anyone buying Chinese balloons for sale at fundraising events are directly liable to prosecution if something goes wrong. School PTAs are often caught in this legal trap without realising it, buying cheap Chinese balloons for selling on at school Fetes. The person bringing the product into the European Union (including the UK) takes on similar responsibilities of the manufacturer as if the product had been manufactured in the EU.
  • CE marking acts as a proof that the product has been adequately tested by the manufacturer (or importer), and is therefore safe as a toy product. Adding CE marking to balloons without evidence of testing,  would not provide any protection by law.
  • As Chinese balloons do not conform to EU Toy Safety Standards, they could be a health hazard, contain toxic inks with phthalates or carcinogenic compounds (with additional sources being high levels of insecticide used in these factories). With the manufacturer's details often missing, there is no traceability should something go wrong with the product, such as the danger of small children choking.

To provide a more concise summary of the report, we created a flyer that set out the main points of the report (2 pages, 253k) : Dangerous and Illegal Foil Balloons on sale in the United Kingdom

The report was written pre-Brexit, so are there any consequences from the vote? EU and UK laws are merged under a process referred to as harmonisation. It is expected that under the Brexit process, laws will mostly stay the same, with changes made on an individual basis as new requirements come to light. We can only see a situation where toy safety laws would tighten further in the future.

Actions against some online sellers such as Amazon and EBay are currently underway to remove non-compliant products from listings. It seems that these resellers are slow to act, breaking their own community guidelines because of their contemptuous approach, ignoring the dangers and health hazards that could be present in the product.

We hope that the reports have helped to gain a better understanding of toy Safety Laws with specific regard to foil balloons, and have contributed to removing dangerous toy products from the marketplace. We have been told of at least one successful case of Trading standards stepping in to remove Chinese "Walking Pet Balloons" from a major shopping centre, with evidence found that the products were being illegally sold to the public.

We may post a follow-up if further information about Amazon and Ebay's product listings come to light.

Further Reading:

See above for report links.

British Standards Institute - European standards and the UK:
http://www.bsigroup.com/LocalFiles/en-GB/EUREF.pdf

By Brent C Stevens - (C) 7 October, 2016, Ecobion Labs

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