Bouncing playdough contains high levels of boric acid
It has the properties of a cross between playdough and a rubber ball. It is called bouncing playdough and enjoys great popularity amongst children as a fun play material. It can be twisted into any shape and bounces like a rubber ball. However, during the production of the bouncing dough the manufacturers use boric acid amongst other things. "There is a risk that boric acid can be released from the bouncing dough during play through contact with skin or through chewing or ingestion", says BfR President Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. Boron was essential for the body at low levels but larger levels could, however, harm health.
After assessing the health risk from boric acid in bouncing playdough, BfR came to the conclusion that critical amounts of boric acid can be released even when just playing with the dough. The tolerable daily intake (TDI) can almost be reached in this way. "In our opinion, this is unacceptable because children can also take up boron from food and other commodities", continued Hensel.
In animal experiments boric acid is embryotoxic and harmful to development. For boron compounds there is a TDI value of 0.1 milligram boron per kilogram bodyweight (mg/kg bw) and for boric acid a TDI of 0.57 mg/kg bw which can be tolerated as the daily intake level. According to estimates, a child weighting 20 kilogram could take in around this amount through the skin through correct use of the bouncing playdough.
If a child were to swallow the contents of a commercial 17-gram pack, then the TDI value would even be exceeded for a short period. Although no acute harm to health is to be expected in this case, the margin to a toxic dose is too small. If one also bears in mind that boron or boric acid is also taken up from foods and other products, then the toxicologically active level can in this case be reached in the body. Boric acid is used in numerous products on account of its consistency-influencing, flame-retardant, antiseptic and preservative properties.
According to BfR the boric acid level in toys should definitely be reduced, as already called for in 1995.