Week of 3.21.08
Finding Non-Toxic Toys
More From NOW: Toxic Toys? | Finding Non-Toxic Toys | Swimming in Chemicals | Efforts To Ban Phthalates | An Exchange of Views | Feedback Forum | The Housing Crash Recession | Economy on the Edge | TranscriptTo find out what parents can do to limit their children's exposure to potentially harmful chemicals like phthalates, NOW sought the advice of the staff of Healthy Child Healthy World. Healthy Child Healthy World is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the health and well being of children from harmful environmental exposures.
Topic Search: Corporate Ethics, Healthcare, Law
NOW: Are there tell-tale signs that a toy might contain phthalates?
Healthy Child Healthy World: The phthalates found in toys are used as a plastic softener in polyvinyl chloride (also known as PVC or vinyl). Some PVC toys may be labeled with a V or #3 inside the chasing arrows triangle usually located on the bottom of a product. Most won't be labeled at all. Generally, if a toy is a squishy plastic—like rubber duckies and baby dolls—or if it has highly flexible plastic as a component—like the clear pages in child "photo albums," the clear plastic purses that some girl's toys are sold in, or the plastic-like "fabric" used on some dolls—you should avoid it or call the manufacturer to ask if the product is made with PVC or phthalates.
NOW: Is there a list of toys manufactured with phthalates that concerned citizens can get access to?
HCHW: There is no comprehensive list at this point. One of the best resources currently available is HealthyToys.org which has a searchable database of over 1,200 toys. Also, MomsRising.org has developed a text messaging system that uses the HealthyToys.org database. Parents can simply text "healthytoys" and the name of a particular toy, a type of toy or a toy manufacturer or retailer to 41411 to find out whether a toy is toxic. MomsRising will respond instantly with a message. The HealthyToys.org testing did not specifically look for phthalates, but they did identify when PVC was used, which, as stated above, is generally a good indicator for the presence of phthalates.
NOW: What other chemicals appear in toys sold in the United States that parents should avoid?
HCHW: The list is rather extensive and includes lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, bromine, antimony, chromium, tin, xylene, toluene, and bisphenol-A.
For more information, see:
U.S. Public Interest Research Group: Trouble in Toyland: The 22nd Annual Survey of Toy Safety
NOW: What are some general guidelines to follow to avoid buying toys with harmful, or potentially harmful chemicals in them?
HCHW: The best guideline is to buy things made from natural materials:
Find more tips here:
Consumer Reports: 12 Shopping Tips
Healthy Child: Environmental Safety of Toys
Healthy Child: Toy Shopping Checklist
NOW: What are some common myths about harmful additives in toys?
HCHW: People assume that products must be proven safe before they can be sold and that the government wouldn't allow unsafe toys to be sold. These assumptions are false. Government regulations are very outdated and weak when it comes to the burgeoning world of chemicals and their use in consumer products, despite our growing scientific understanding of the potential hazards of many of these chemicals.
NOW: Are there any U.S. retailers you would single out for *praise* for their proactive approach to selling toxin-free toys?
HCHW: While we do not endorse any companies per se, we know many manufacturers are committed to safe, PVC-free toys including:
Brio, Chicco, Early Start, First Years, Ikea, Lamaze Infant Development, Lego, Little Tykes, Playmobil, Primetime Playthings, Ravensburger, Sassy and Tiny Love.
Toys "R" Us has begun phasing out PVCs in its own line of products and has announced that beginning in January 2009 all products sold in any Toys "R" Us or Babies "R" Us store in the United States must be produced without the addition of phthalates that have raised concerns about infant safety. Toys "R" Us is joining a growing list of dozens of companies including Target, Wal-Mart, Sears, Kmart, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, and Apple that are eliminating or reducing PVC products and packaging. You can find a comprehensive list of companies at: http://www.besafenet.com/pvc/companypolicies.htm
While it is outstanding that so many major manufacturers and retailers are making this commitment, phasing out PVC is only one piece of the solution. Parents shouldn't have to worry about what other chemicals may be lurking in children's products.
There are many small companies committed to selling completely non-toxic, natural toys. A simple search on-line will result in a large list of vendors to buy safe toys from. A few we have come across include Beyond-learning.com, Bioviva.com/us, Crispina.com, Kenanausa.com, Naturalplay.com, Novanatural.com, Oompa.com, Playstoretoys.com, and Treeblocks.com.
NOW: What other toxic chemicals should parents watch out for—and perhaps use your website as a resource to learn more about?
HCHW: Unfortunately, the list of chemicals is too long to include here. As stated above, there are thousands of chemicals used in everyday products and only a small handful have been adequately tested for their potential health impacts on children's vulnerable, developing bodies. Some of the main steps we encourage parents to take in order to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals are to eat organically grown foods, use non-toxic cleaners, find natural ways to control pests, and reduce the use of plastics. Parents can find dozens of easy ways to practice these steps, as well as a wealth of additional information about everything from the latest science to safe shopping on our website, www.healthychild.org.
Healthy Child Healthy World - healthychild.org
Video: Dr. Galvez on Plastics and Childhood Exposures
Consumer's Union: Not In My Cart
U.S. Public Interest Research Group: Toy Safety
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