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Concerns raised over stress-relief toys

By YANG ZEKUN | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-24 09:10
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A type of squishy stress-relief toy called "Nienie" has recently become popular among young people, but some have raised safety concerns such as excessive formaldehyde levels.

The visually appealing toys, made mostly of silicone and resembling various types of food, offer a squishy texture and enhanced malleability. They have attracted a significant following, especially among young women.

Zhou Di, a young woman who discovered the toys on a video platform and promptly ordered several, continues to follow influencers and gets updates on new releases.

Zhou mentioned that due to her frequent computer use, the toys serve as desk ornaments and help alleviate wrist and mental pressure.

"Sometimes when work stalls and I need to clear my mind, I just give it a squeeze. The slow rebound feeling is very stress-relieving," she said.

A search for "Nienie" on social platforms yields over a million related posts. Many people claim to have spent thousands or even tens of thousands of yuan on these toys. Some popular types are being resold for high prices, reaching thousands of yuan, with many highly-priced items originating from popular handmade stores.

Numerous bloggers who craft and sell their own toys have emerged on social platforms, but due to their handmade nature, mass production is not feasible, resulting in longer production cycles and some items being in short supply.

Wang Lili, a professor at Zhejiang University's School of Management, believes that young people are drawn to these malleable and tactile toys to regain a sense of control amidst the complexities of daily work. They also provide an outlet for releasing pent-up emotions, she said.

However, amid the craze for such toys, many users have begun to express safety concerns. This week, a topic about a seller closing their store due to discomfort from making "Nienie" toys went viral on social media platform Weibo.

Some online sellers claim that the materials they use are "food-grade silicone," but they caution that the toys are not edible and advise against squeezing them outside of their packaging.

Several bloggers and users have issued warnings, noting that many of these toys emit a strong artificial fragrance and release a pungent odor during play, with tests revealing formaldehyde levels exceeding safety limits.

In addition, many netizens have revealed that although many such toys are labeled as using "food-grade" silicone, they often lack proper packaging and only have simple product name labels with unclear origins. There are also concerns that the realistic food-like appearance of the toys might lead to children mistakenly eat them.

Many netizens have called for strengthened product quality regulations, and for ensuring the safety of toy materials and compliance with health standards.

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