Avoiding Toxic Toys
Most parents don't even know it, but they may be letting their children play with toxic toys. These are toys that contain PVC with toxic additives, toxic paints and finishes, etc.
PVC plastics (also called vinyl) often contain additives, such as lead, phthalates, and cadmium which can leech out of the toy. Lead and cadmium can cause brain damage (especially in children). Phthalates can cause cancer. Many products in your home, including toys for babies and children, have toxic chemical levels that exceed the safe levels established by the U.S. government. If your child chews on the toy (as most babies and children do with everything even if it's not meant to be chewed on) your child may be ingesting these toxic substances.
Some studies have shown no negative affect on the health of children from using and mouthing such toys, and the U.S. government continues to allow the use of PVC in toys based on these studies (even though some other governments have banned PVC in both toys and food containers because of the potential dangers). Are these materials really safe? Well, there is still a lot of debate about it. Some studies with rats have shown that there are indeed health risks, but other studies still point to the lack of health risks. Until the issue is resolved, it's probably better to be safe than sorry and simply avoid toys with PVC as much as possible.
You can first avoid PVC completely by choosing toys that are not made out of plastic. Wood toys are making a big comeback as well as many alternative materials. If you choose to buy plastic, avoid these toxic chemicals by purchasing your children's toys from manufactures that don't use any PVC in their products. While this does not guarantee that alternative plastic materials won't have their own health risks, it will reduce the chance of known potential health risks.
(Please note: All efforts were made to contact the companies listed below to obtain accurate information. Unless verification with the company is specified, the following information has been based on secondary sources. Some secondary sources are out of date and contain incorrect information, even those completed just one year ago, so the accuracy of information obtained from secondary sources cannot be verified.)
Manufacturers that don't use PVC in any of their products:
Brio (verified with the company on Sept. 2, 2003)
Gerber (verified with the company on Sept. 3, 2003)
Lego (verified with the company on Sept. 3, 2003)
Sassy (except for vinyl books: Who Loves Baby Photo Book", "Splish Splash Bathtime Book", "Hello Me Hello Bee Book", "Baby’s Peek A Boo Book", and ABC Books; verified with the company on Sept. 3, 2003)
Safety 1st (verified with the company on Sept. 9, 2003; completely phased out in 1999)
Manufacturers that will not use PVC in toys for children under 3 years of age:
Chicco (some sources indicate that they also do not use PVC in any of their products)
Manufacturers that will not use PVC in toys for children under 18 months of age:
Battat (verified with the company on Sept. 8, 2003)
Some manufacturers have eliminated the use of phthalates but some continue to use PVC. The products these manufacturers produce may be a bit safer than those produced with phthalates but still aren't the best choice because the PVC usually contains other harmful additives.
Manufacturers that will not use phthalates in toys for children under 3 years of age:
Mattel / Fisher Price / Tyco / American Girl (unable to verify with company; operators were unwilling to discuss materials used in toys because they consider it proprietary information, but assured me that all materials are federally approved)
Little Tikes (verified with the company on Sept. 4, 2003; have switched back and forth between continued use of PVC and phthalates and planning to phase out PVC and phthalates; they currently use PVC in many of their toys and phthalates in toys for kids over 3 years old)
Some manufacturers have only eliminated phthalates in mouth toys, but as any parent knows, to a baby or toddler everything is a mouth toy, so this solution is a feeble attempt to make toys safer.
Manufacturers that will not use phthalates in mouth toys (e.g. teethers) only:
Hasbro / Playskool
Lamaze Infant Development (verified with the company on Sept. 5, 2003; PVC toys, some with phthalates, include Flip Flop Activity Blocks, My First Fishbowl, Nesting Present, Look and Love Photo Album, Cribside Graphic Panels, Snack and Play Stroller toy, and the four sea creatures in the Squeeze and Squirt.)
Wood toys can be wonderful, but there are some things to look out for. Wood toys should not have any toxic paints of finishes. They should be made of solid wood, not plywood, particle board, etc. which contain toxic adhesives. The wood should not be pressure treated or contain any insecticides either. Organic wood is best, and sustainably grown wood is even better for the environment.
Cloth Toys, Stuffed Animals, and Fibers
Cloth toys can also be wonderful, but they too have some things you should look out for. To reduce the chances of your child ingesting toxic chemicals stick to natural fibers such as cotton, hemp, and wool. They should be made of organic cloth since conventional fibers can contain pesticides. If you don't know if the cloth is organic or are unable to buy organic cloth toys, make sure you wash the toys thoroughly before letting your child play with them. Also, don't forget to ensure that they are colored with non-toxic dyes. To kill any microbes that may accumulate on cloth toys, put them in the dryer on high heat for
References: http://www.greenpeaceusa.org/features/r ... rd2000.htm
, http://www.checnet.org/healthehouse/edu ... ain_ID=138