Getting Toxic Chemicals Out of Your Life---Children's Toys

Toddlers and infants are natural explorers and love to place objects in their mouths, especially when teething.  Manufacturers put chemicals in almost all products, sadly children’s toys are no exception.  You can research this issue until blue in the face and still uncover toys and chemicals to avoid.  After extensively looking into this issue my family has adopted some general rules around types of toys that we give to our son.  But before getting into the practical let’s discuss what chemicals/products we are trying to avoid.

1.  BPA/BPS and PVC found in Plastics:  Bisphenol A, or BPA. Bisphenol A is a known endocrine disruptor chemical (EDC) that can be found in toys, plastic dishware, baby bottles, tooth fillings, and plastic water bottles. Though major retailers started phasing out BPA-containing bottles and other baby products from their shelves in 2008, many toys and children’s items still do contain BPA, or the BPA has been replaced with BPS, which is equally toxic.  PVC vinyl (#3 recycling code) is a soft plastic used in tens of thousands of household items and toys. PVC can contain lead, phthalates and volatile organic compounds that are known to cause cancer and disrupt your hormones.

2.  Fire Retardants found in Plastics: Brominated fire retardants are dangerous for children because laboratory studies have shown that they are endocrine disrupting chemicals and effect brain and behavior.  Although Penta and Octa PBDEs are banned for most uses in Europe and Canada, and no longer made in the U.S. because of health and safety concerns, a loophole in federal regulations allows finished goods containing these chemicals to be imported.

3.  Phthalates: A group of chemicals typically used in plastics or as solvents. While some phthalates have been banned, a few common ones you might see on product labels include: DBP (dibutyl phthalate), DMP (dimethyl phthalate) and BBzP (benzyl butyl phthalate). Phthalates are endocrine disrupting chemicals found in myriad children’s items, including baby wipes, teething rings, plastic toys, inflatables, soft lunch boxes and school supplies.

Practical Tips on Avoiding Toxic Toys

Stay away from plastics....easier said than done!  There are many wonderful wooden toys that are just as enjoyable and entertaining as plastic toys.  My son is 15 months old and we have several wooden toys that he enjoys including:

·       Square blocks

·       Egg shakers 

·      Hape Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xylophone 

·      Shape sorter 

·      Bead Maze 

·      Round stacker

·       Brio train

·       Drums 

Brands that we like are Brio, Haba and Hape.  Other non-toxic brands include: Child Trek, Natural Pod, ImagiPlay, Melissa and Doug, and Plan Toys.

We have several plastic toys such as trucks, push toys, Mozart cube, and xylophone that were primarily gifts from kind well-wishers.  I rotate those toys and they are shaped in such a way that my son does not try to chew on them.  I know that my son will be exposed to plastics, will put plastic items in his mouth, and will spend time playing with plastic toys either at home, child watch, or at friends’ homes.  Our approach is to introduce fun wooden toys that are age appropriate and engaging and are the majority of toys in his play space. 

In addition to wooden toys we have several rubber and silicon toys such as balls and teething items.  We love the CaaOcho Baby brand, CaaOcho Baby - Natural Rubber Sensory Ball is a favorite toy and teething item. 

We encourage parents to be aware of toxic chemicals in toys but not over stress about the issue. Kids need toys that help them explore their surroundings and spark their imagination---look for non-toxic toys that can help them do just that!