PhotoSummertime is fast approaching, and for many consumers that means plenty of quality family time at the pool. But are your pool toys and swimming aids safe for you and your loved ones?

A new study finds that many inflatable toys and swimming aids, like bathing rings and arm bands, may be treated with a range of chemicals that can be hazardous to your health. Researchers say that chemical compounds such as cyclohexanone, phenol, and isophorone may be present in especially high concentrations on children’s toys.

"Modern products such as toys and children's products are sourced from a wide variety of chemical and physical manufacturing processes, and this complexity often makes it difficult for us to identify those containing contaminants and unwanted substances, and to determine their causes," said researcher Christoph Wiedmer.

Follow your nose

Wiedmer explains that many of the chemical substances are dangerous because they have unstable structures. This can result in a host of problems, “such as irriation, smell nuisance, or other physiological and psychosomatic effects,” he said. Cyclohexanone and phenol are known to be harmful when inhaled, and isophorone has been classified as a category 2 carcinogen.

However, the researchers point out that there is a way for consumers to detect these chemicals. All you have to do, they say, is follow your nose. “We found that in a number of cases our noses can guide us to ‘sniff out’ problematic products,” said Wiedmer.

So, which smells should tip you off? Wiedmer and fellow researcher Andrea Buettner tested the molecular make-up of the “distinctive smells” that came from various pool toys and found that between 32 and 46 odors were detected from each sample, with 13 being described as "intense." A panel of volunteers set to smelling each product to see what each product odor reminded them of.

Participants reported that three of the products reminded them of almonds, plastic, and rubber, while a fourth product reminded them of glue or nail polish. Consumers that experience these or other suspicious odors would be wise to research their products to make sure they are safe to use.

The team's full study has been published in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry.

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