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More dangerous goods banned in EU

The European Commission is expected to announce on Thursday a rapid rise in the number of dangerous goods withdrawn from sale across the European Union.

The increase is seen in Brussels as proof that an EU-wide alert system is working better to protect consumers. The number of items reported and banned from sale is believed to have doubled between 2004 and 2006. Toys now form the biggest category of hazardous goods on sale, the figures from 2006 are expected to reveal. About half all goods withdrawn are believed to be imports from China.

Examples posted on the website of the rapid alert system, Rapex, include:

    * A teddy bear, which a child could take apart, and choke on the filling, or be cut by a sharp internal part
   * A mini-motorbike, with a poorly guarded drive chain, and badly insulated wiring next to the fuel tank
    * A counterfeit Superman toy containing paint with a high lead content
    * A skin cream-gel containing a dangerous fungus

„The increase in products withdrawn shows there is better surveillance and better enforcement, not necessarily that there are more unsafe toys on sale,” said British trading standards officer, Christine Heemskerk, from Surrey. Another factor was that countries which joined the EU in 2004 were now notifying Rapex about products on sale on their markets. „Some of them had no controls at all in the past, and are only now getting to grips with the problem,” she said. When officials in one country report a dangerous product, the alert goes out to all 27 EU member states. More than 1,000 alerts were issued in 2006, about half of which originated in the UK, Germany and Spain. Heemskerk said that the high proportion of Chinese goods among those withdrawn said more about the volume of imports from China, than Chinese safety standards. A European Commission source also said that China was co-operating with the EU by revoking export licenses for some hazardous goods. Britain was among a number of countries that had begun to co-operate more fully with the Rapex system, the source said, doubling the number of products it notified between 2005 and 2006. (BBC NEWS)