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Testing acoustic toys
The assessment of sound-emitting toys and the legislation behind such tests.
Image © Liudmila Sundikova
Noise in the environment and the workplace is a major health and safety issue, and a loss of hearing can have a considerable social impact. Damage to a child’s hearing can affect his or her development – particularly with regard to speech and learning skills.
Many toys emit sounds as part of their play appeal. However, it is important to limit the output to levels that are not likely to cause children to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss. European standard EN 71-1:2014+A1:2018 – ‘Safety of toys – mechanical and physical properties’ provides test methods and noise emission limits for different types and categories of toy, based on likely duration of use, proximity to the ear and sound pressure.
The EN 71-1 standard identifies three main exposure categories. Toys of non-traditional design that do not easily fit into one of these categories should be tested against the strictest category (the lowest numbered).
Exposure category 1:
- toys emitting sound during time periods typically longer than 30 seconds after each initiation
- toys held close to the ear that emit sound during time periods typically longer than 30 seconds after each initiation
- toys using headphones or earphones
- other toys emitting sound typically during more than one third of the playing time.
Exposure category 2:
- toys emitting sound during time periods typically shorter than 30 seconds, but longer than five seconds after each initiation
- toys held close to the ear that while emitting sound are held close to the ear during time periods typically shorter than 30 seconds but longer than five seconds after each initiation
- rattles and squeeze toys
- wind toys that are imitations of musical instruments
- other toys emitting sound typically during less than one-third and more than one-tenth of the playing time.
Exposure category 3:
- toys emitting sound during time periods typically shorter than five seconds after each initiation
- toys for which maintaining the sound output requires significant physical effort
- toys held close to the ear that while emitting sound are held close to the ear during time periods typically shorter than five seconds
- toys that fire ‘caps’
- wind toys – such as whistles
- other toys emitting sound typically during less than one-tenth of the playing time.
EN 71-1 details a number of tests and noise emission limits. The standard includes an informative Annex A, section 25 of which provides a background and rationale for the types of test and their applicability to different types of toy.
SATRA conducts its sound level testing in an acoustic chamber that meets the requirements of acoustics standards for determining noise emitted by machinery and equipment while measurements of emission sound pressure levels are recorded in accordance with EN ISO 11201 and EN ISO 11202. This provides a ‘free field’ environment (an area where sound may propagate free from any form of obstruction), which is not compromised by other noise sources.
EN 71-1:2014+A1:2018 has been ‘harmonised’ by the EU, which means that it can be used to demonstrate compliance with the safety requirements under the Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC. This includes acoustic testing.
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