Kids grow out of their toys faster than they do their diapers and there’s always some new “must have” that outdates last month’s “must have”. It’s hard to keep up with the latest trends… and who’d want to?!
In addition to the crazy cost of this fast-accumulation of clutter, many popular and well-marketed toys contain low levels of industrial chemicals. And some of these chemicals have been linked to cancer and a range of developmental, reproductive or neurological issues in animals and people.
Other chemicals used in the manufacture of toys have not yet been tested, so we don’t yet know how safe or unsafe they are. Instead of banning these chemicals and considering them “potentially unsafe”, they are considered “not proven to be unsafe”. The problem is that “not proven to be unsafe” is not the same thing as “proven to be safe”.
Is there cause for concern?
Some manufacturers and experts insist the presence of these chemicals does not mean that children are actually exposed to the toxins, or that there is any cause for concern – and they may be right.
Or they may be wrong. It’s hard to tell, particularly when we’re talking about the chemicals that have not yet been tested.And while low-level exposure to an individual chemical may not be harmful, there is little way to test how the interaction and accumulation of various chemicals may affect a child. This is important, as children tend to play with different toys throughout the day — each with a different mix of chemicals — and snuggle with other toys while they sleep.
Faced with unknown risks, it’s a good idea to avoid potential harm whenever possible, especially when it comes to children. The best way parents can ensure a safer playtime is to simply choose toys that do not contain chemicals.
Here are a few easy tips on what to avoid and what to look for and what to avoid when looking for healthier toys.
Toys to avoid
- Avoid plastic toys, especially those made from vinyl. Also known as PVC, vinyl leaches phthalates (a toxic plasticizer) onto the skin and into the air we breathe.
- Avoid cheap metal jewelry and trinkets, which may contain lead, cadmium or other heavy metals.
- Avoid cheap play makeup, which is often contaminated with harmful ingredients such as lead and chromium. (Read this article on safer face paints, if your kids love to dress up.)
- Avoid toys, play mats or any children’s product that contains chemical flame-retardants, which are known to contain chemicals of concern.
- Avoid toys made in China and other countries with loose manufacturing regulations.[/accordion]
- Opt for toys made from unfinished wood, natural latex rubber (not synthetic latex), organic cotton, organic wool or silicone.
- If you do choose plastic toys, check the bottom of the toy for the recycling symbol. Choose plastic toys with a recycling code #1, #2, #4 or #5. These recycling codes indicate a safer type of plastic that leaches fewer chemicals. (Avoid plastic recycling codes #3 and #6.)
- Ensure the paint or dye used on toys is labeled as non-toxic or uses only plant-based colorants.
- Instead of buying tons of lower quality toys, opt for fewer toys of higher quality. To avoid boredom, host toy swapping parties with other concerned parents or make use of your local toy lending library.
- Choose toys made in the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Japan, Australia or other countries with strict toy regulations.
Go outside and have fun
Of course, play doesn’t have to be all about toys. Sure, it can take some effort to get kids to put down the toys and electronic games, but it’s worth the effort! Climbing trees, playing tag and running around is great way to support a growing body and healthy imagination.