Its the craze among kids across South Africa. Here Jason Peek, a pupil at Manor Gardens Primary School in Durban, shows off his loom band. Picture: Jacques Naude, Independent Newspapers

Durban - Parents of children who have been caught up in the loom band bracelet craze that is sweeping the world, including South Africa, are urged to ensure that the bands and charms they purchase are not the cheap rip-offs that potentially contain toxic cancer-causing chemicals.

This is after “rogue” bags of the bands and charms were intercepted en route from the Far East to the UK, and found to contain dangerous levels of phthalates.

The UK legal limit for phthalates, which are carcinogenic, mutagenic (can damage DNA) and can cause reproductive problems, is 0.1 percent, but some charms contained 50 percent.

It is not clear whether any of these bands and charms are being sold in South Africa, with the South African Bureau of Standards and product regulators unaware of their being a concern.

However, safety officials in the UK have warned parents to ensure that the bands and charms that they purchase for their children carry a “CE” mark, conforming to EU standards, on the packaging.

Importers and retailers there are also being encouraged to send their loom band charms for testing.

The American manufacturer of the product, Rainbow Loom, posted the following warning on its website ( “Please be aware that there are many fake/counterfeit Rainbow Loom products available online and at stores. Some fake products possess the same name as genuine Rainbow Loom products.

“Many online sellers are using pictures of the original Rainbow Loom to list online, but ship counterfeits to customers. Please purchase from our authorised retailers or our website to ensure you are purchasing the genuine Rainbow Loom products.”

The original product also contains an embossed logo.

Some South African online distributers contacted on Thursday said their products were imported from reputable resellers, thereby making their bands and charms more expensive than those sold in some small shops and markets.

However, parents still need to be vigilant.

An article on the UK’s Daily Mail website quoted Robert Chantry-Price, a lead officer for product safety at the Trading Standards Institute, as saying: “When it comes to the risks they pose, it’s a question of how long you are exposed to them. If you touched and played with a toy containing phthalates for 10 minutes, it probably wouldn’t be a problem at all.

“But kids make these loom bands into bracelets and wear them for long periods so often there is direct skin contact 24 hours a day for several weeks.”

He said children’s skin absorbed toxins more easily than adults.

“We don’t know the true extent of the problem. Tests are being done on the precautionary principle but we have no idea what is already out there… Loom bands and their charms are very cheap to make. They are flooding into Britain in their millions and it is very hard to keep tabs on them. I would warn parents to be vigilant about loom bands – only buy from respected shops, not off market stalls.”

He said parents should not allow their children to put them in their mouths.

The Mercury