Warning over unsafe colouring pens in children’s toys

Northumberland County Council’s public protection service is warning parents to be on the lookout for unsafe children’s felt tip pens, particularly those associated with velvet art toys.

These pens are usually sold in packs of three, with a velvet art picture, as a colouring-in set. Some batches have failed safety testing in that the end closure (the end cap opposite the nib) easily detaches and could pose a choking hazard to young children.

The pens are branded as ‘Write Stuff’ and the name and address shown on the packaging is; Chelford Ltd, Manchester M6 6JD, item code TA1003 and batch numbers 20403 and 20402. The importers of the pens, Chelford Ltd, have initiated a product recall on all batch numbers for the product item code TA1003.

There are strict safety standards that felt-tip pens are consigned to, to ensure their safe use. The British Standard that covers enclosures like these sets out the force that the end cap should resist before it becomes loose.

If it detaches with a lesser force, the end cap could be swallowed by a child chewing the end of the pen, as many will do.

A consultant paediatrician has assessed the item and reported that, if the end cap were to become lodged in the larynx of a typical 3 year old child, it could cause total respiratory collapse. Without rapid first aid or retrieval of the pen end, there is a potential for death in a smaller child.

Victoria Barrington, head of public protection, said: “We tested 30 pens and 19 of them failed a failure rate above 60 per cent. This is not acceptable. I urge all traders and businesses to check their stocks to ensure they do not have any of the affected items. Should any be identified they should be removed from sale immediately and returned to the wholesalers where they were originally purchased.

“Parents should check any pens their children are using and, if they are Write Stuff pens, or if they bought them over the summer as part of a cheap velvet art set, they should dispose of them safely. Trading Standards has been working with the importer, and with others in the supply chain, to remove these pens from sale and reduce the risk they present to children.”

Coun Dave Ledger, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council said: “It is alarming to find that 63 per cent of the pens that were tested have failed to meet the required safety standards. In one batch of pens tested 100% of the pens failed to meet the minimum safety standards. Upon these findings I urge all parents to be vigilant, and to check their children’s toys regularly for any damage that could make them unsafe.”

Anyone who wishes to report any issues with pen or toy safety, or requires advice should call Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 040506.