Consumers benefit from greater use of European product safety alert system and more effective market surveillance.
European countries used the system to warn each other about 1993 hazardous products last year, 7% more than in 2008.
Of these, 1699 product notifications concerned a serious threat to consumers, the environment or public security. About 20% of the total came from Europe and 60 % were made in China.
The increase - from 1866 in 2008 - stems from a combination of factors including greater awareness of product safety standards, more effective and frequent controls of products and more cooperation between countries.
Countries notify RAPEX of measures they have taken to prevent or restrict the marketing of a product deemed unsafe, for example by banning sales, recalling the product or informing consumers about the risks.
Toys accounted for 28% of the notifications, according to the EU’s 2009 report on the rapid-alert system (RAPEX). Those with small detachable parts and toxic heavy metals are among the most dangerous, especially for young children.
In 2009, market surveillance officials in 13 European countries inspected 14,000 toys for compliance with EU safety standards on small parts and heavy metals. Those suspected of posing a risk were sent to a laboratory for further scrutiny.
Of 576 tested for small parts, 200 (35%) were found to be hazardous. The tests for heavy metal content were more encouraging - only 17 of 227 samples - 7.5% - did not comply with the legal limits.
Thirty countries – the 27 EU members plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – use RAPEX to alert each other about unsafe products. All products except food, pharmaceutical and medical devices are covered under the system.
Since RAPEX was launched in 2004, the number of notifications has quadrupled.