Noise from children’s toys

The European Standard on toy safety, EN 71-1, was published in July 1998 and for the first time specified comprehensive noise limits for different types of toy, with the objective of protecting children’s hearing.  The European Standard was automatically adopted as a British Standard, BS EN 71-1, and came into effect in November 1998.  These British and European standards are regularly revised and the latest version is dated 2011 with amendments up to 2014. A draft for comment was circulated in 2014 which may lead to further changes. An International Standard, based in part on EN 71, has also been developed by ISO (ISO 8214, various parts).  Compliance with the ISO standard does not necessarily ensure compliance with the EN standard or vice-versa. An American standard has also been published as ASTM F963.

Before the publication of EN 71-1, ISVR Consulting undertook a study to investigate the exposure of children to noise from toys.  The study was jointly funded by the then Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) which is now the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) and the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA).

The project involved devising appropriate test methods and proposing appropriate noise limits, taking into account typical play patterns and durations and considering the applicability to children of generally accepted damage-risk criteria, which are based largely on retrospective studies on an adult population.   The noise levels from toys were also related to other everyday noises in and around the home and school and in a child’s environment.  The objective was to propose noise limits so that toys did not in themselves present a risk to hearing, and did not add significantly to any risk from other everyday noise.  We also reviewed existing and proposed noise limits on toys from around the world.

Noise levels were measured from approximately 180 different toys, some of which were supplied by manufacturers and some of which were purchased locally in toy shops and general stores.  Of the toys tested, approximately 16% produced noise levels above our proposed limits.

Our full report to the DTI and the BTHA can be downloaded from this site in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format (size 680 kB).  The summary and contents pages, can be downloaded as a separate, smaller file (35 kB) in rich-text format (rtf).

The full reference is as follows:

Lower MC, Lawton BW, Lutman ME and Davis RA,  1997: Noise from toys and its effect on hearing.  DTI Reference URN 97/944.  Report no. 5304 R02,  ISVR Consultancy Services, University of Southampton.