TOXIC chemicals have been found in many Euro 2012 football shirts.
European consumer group BEUC said it had found “worrying” levels of lead, nickel, organotin and nonylphenol in official shirts from nine of the countries taking part.
BEUC accused manufacturers of foul play in using harmful substances in consumer products.
Irish shirts were not among those tested.
Kits from Spain and Germany were found to exceed the recommended levels of lead for children’s products.
Lead is a potentially lethal brain poison and there have been frequent recalls of toys containing excessive levels in recent years. Lower levels of it were found in shirts from Italy, France, Ukraine and Russia.
The football shirts of host nation Poland were found to contain the toxin organotin at levels that exceed the legal limit.
Organotin is a chemical used to prevent sweat odour, but it can be toxic to the nervous system in excessive quantities.
BEUC called for Poland’s shirt to be banned outright from shops as a result of these findings.
Shirts from Ireland’s opponents Italy and Spain were found to contain nonylphenol, a chemical which can disrupt the body’s endocrine system and is banned from wastewater because of its harmful effects on the environment.
And football stars Ronaldo and Van Persie will line out for Portugal and the Netherlands in shirts containing nickel.
The test results were a sad reminder that European legislation is unfit for the purpose of banning dangerous substances from consumer products, said BEUC Director General Monique Goyens.
“Football fans pay up to €90 for the shirt of their favourite team. The least they should expect is to have a quality and safe product,” she said.
“It is inexplicable that heavy metals are used in mass consumer products. It is clearly foul play by manufacturers to use substances harmful to both people and the environment,” she said.
BEUC said many of the shirts came from the same manufacturer, with those from Poland, Holland, France and Portugal made by Nike, those from Spain, Germany, Ukraine and Russia made by Adidas, and those from Italy made by Puma.
Asked if it had looked at football shirts on sale in Ireland to see if they were safe, the Health and Safety Authority said it relied on the EU-wide RAPEX system to alert them to any consumer products identified as harmful or posing a risk to consumers.
“At this point no RAPEX alert has been issued in relation to official Euro 2012 shirts, and as such the Health and Safety authority will not be taking any action at the current time,” it said.
The official Irish shirts are supplied by Umbro, but they referred a query about their safety to owners Nike.
Nike said today that product and consumer safety was of the utmost importance to the company and they complied with all EU regulation.
"Nike has some of the most stringent standards in the footwear, apparael and equipment industry on the use of restricted substances," a statement said.
It had requested detailed information from the consumer group which carried out the tests so that they might fully investigate their claims.