Identification of irritants and off-odors in toys and children's clothing

Project term: 1.6.2015 to 31.5.2017

Project management / project funding: Bavarian Ministry for the Environment and Consumer Protection

In children's products there is a need to minimize material odors and other negative impressions, in particular against the background of ever more prevalent physiological conditions in children (allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), stressor effects, etc.). The relevant substances and their effects on people have up until now not been researched. The objective of this project is therefore to identify the substances which cause off-odors in children's products.

In order to acquire a better understanding of this issue, children's products with off-odors were first of all subjected to sensory evaluation. To date more than 50 products have been evaluated in this way. Instrumental analytical techniques have then been employed (gas chromatography - olfactometry, mass spectrometry, etc.) to identify the chemicals responsible for the off-odors.

Our studies show that a large number of compounds in plastic products having diverse chemical structures can lead to off-odors and/or irritation. Some of these were identified for the first time in this project. We have also found that some of these substances are physiologically harmful. Some toys with strong odors also contained harmful, non-odorous substances.

Correlation of the sensory evaluation with the chemical analyses has allowed marker substances to be identified which can, for example, be used for future quality monitoring. The studies also form the basis for determining the sources of contamination and for identifying reaction pathways leading to the formation of undesirable substances. Follow-up studies will evaluate the physiological and toxicological properties of these substances. Particular focus will be put on the exposure to these substances of consumers, people involved in the manufacturing process, and people involved in sales and retail.


  • C. Wiedmer, C. Velasco-Schön & A. Buettner. Characterization of off-odours and potentially harmful substances in a fancy dress accessory handbag for children. Scientific Reports 7, 1807, doi:10.1038/s41598-017-01720-5 (2017)
  • Wiedmer C, Velasco-Schön C, Buettner A (2017). Characterization of odorants in inflatable aquatic toys and swimming learning devices – which substances are causative for the characteristic odour and potentially harmful? Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 409, 3905-3916.


  • C. Wiedmer, P. Denk, O. Matheis, D. Reger, C. Velasco-Schön, A. Buettner. Identification of off-odours in toys and articles of daily use. Polymer Testing & Analysis 2017, Cologne, 04.-05.04.2017
  • A. Buettner, P. Denk, E. Kröner, C. Leichsenring, O. Matheis, D. Reger, C. Velasco-Schön, C. Wiedmer. Fehlgeruch in Kunststoffspielzeug. 4. Sitzung des Ausschusses Spielzeug der BfR-Kommission für Bedarfsgegenstände, Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung, Berlin, 07.12.2016
  • C. Wiedmer, P. Denk, E. Kröner, C. Leichsenring, O. Matheis, D. Reger, C. Velasco-Schön, A. Büttner. Identifizierung und Bewertung von Fehlgerüchen in Spielwaren und Bedarfsgegenständen. 2. LGL-Kongress „Sichere Lebensmittel – Von der Früherkennung bis zur Sanktion", Erlangen,  18.-19.10.2016
  • A. Buettner, M. Czerny, P. Denk, E. Kröner, K. Lorber, A. Strube, M. Wagenstaller, C. Wiedmer. Smells of a modern world – odorants in articles of daily use. 45. Deutscher Lebensmittelchemikertag, Technische Universität München, in Freising-Weihenstephan,  12. – 14.09.2016
  • A. Buettner, P. Denk, E.-M. Kröner, C. Leichsenring, O. Matheis, D. Reger, C. Velasco-Schön, C. Wiedmer. Charakterisierung geruchsaktiver Substanzen in Kinderprodukten – wann ist die Schwelle zur Geruchsbelästigung überschritten? 67. Arbeitstagung des Regionalverbandes Bayern der Lebensmittelchemischen Gesellschaft, Fachgruppe in der GDCh, Bayerisches Landesamt für Gesundheit und Lebensmittelsicherheit, Erlangen, 10.03.2016.
  • A. Büttner, P. Denk, E.-M. Kröner, C. Leichsenring, O. Matheis, D. Reger, C. Velasco-Schön, C. Wiedmer. Offensive odours in children's products - just bad smells or are they physiologically active? 18th Conference Odour and Emissions of Plastic Materials. Institut für Werkstofftechnik, Kunststofftechnik, Universität Kassel, 07. – 08.03.2016.