A TOY firm which has its headquarters in Little Chalfont has withdrawn thousands of plastic loom band charms from sale in its stores after tests found they contained high levels of cancer-causing chemicals.

Retailer The Entertainer has taken the toys off the shelves of its 95 stores nationwide following the investigation, which showed some of the charms contained higher than acceptable levels of the substance phthalate.

The chemical is used to make plastic more flexible, but research has shown exposure to phthalates increases the risk of contracting breast cancer by up to five times - while the substance has also been linked to birth defects.

Products are legally allowed to contain up to 0.1 per cent phthalates but tests conducted by the BBC Midlands Today programme showed some loom charms bought from a shop in Birmingham consisted of 40 per cent of the substance.

In a statement this week The Entertainer said: "It was brought to our attention that loom charms purchased from one of our stores may contain phthalates.

"At The Entertainer, children's safety is our number one priority so as a precautionary measure we have removed all loom charms from sale with immediate effect whilst we conduct a full investigation.

"Any concerned customers will be offered a full refund or exchange in any of our stores."

Loom bands and charms - which are woven together to create friendship bracelets - have proved extremely popular amongst British children since being invented in the USA last year.

The Entertainer's website boasted the chain had the UK's largest loom range available for sale.