Rainbow Loom, Cra-Z-Loom, Bandaloom – if you’ve got a kid, there’s a great chance you’ve got some kind of loom in your house.
The tiny coloured rubber bands which are looped together to make bracelets, necklaces, pencil-holders – even entire outfits – are a two-year craze that shows no sign of slowing.
The original loom is the brainchild of Wichita, US man Choon Ng, who estimates it’s made him around $40 million.
He’s got a compact version out this week, Finger Loom, which retails for about a third of the price of the Rainbow Loom and is sure to be a huge stocking filler at Christmas.
It uses the same rubber bands, though, and it’s the insatiable demand for the bands and in particular, the charms often attached to them, that is causing some headaches.
Cheap knockoffs have been found to contain cancer-causing chemicals, and it’s not a ploy by Ng and his distributors to discredit the competition.
In August, a British laboratory found unsafe levels of carcinogens in unofficial charms. And yesterday, Italian police swooped on five warehouses in Milan, netting 20 million unofficial bands.
The bands did not have a CE safety mark, which ensures that the product meets the requirements set by EU law.
An international loom band cartel might sound like a joke, but the Birmingham Assay Office said in August that charms attached to the bands contained deadly levels of phthalates, classed as possibly carcinogenic.
The legal limit for the chemical – which is used as a softening agent – is 0.1 per cent. Some of the charms were found to contain a level of more than 50 per cent.
Officers involved in the Milan raid warned the chemicals could also be present in the bands. Sweating or sucking on the bands could pose a risk of contamination.
“It is clear that we are facing an organized supply chain that we are happy to have broken,” local Safety Councillor Marco Granelli said.
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