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What You Don’t Know About Plastic Toys Made From PVC

I’ve had an epiphany of sorts over the last few months at Mommy Footprint. The last time I experienced this, I was listening to a dietitian named Jen talk ~ things started clicking together and I made changes. My sudden insight of late comes after many hours reading what the experts at EWG have to say, watching the Disappearing Male documentary, and getting many opinions from moms I trust that are focused on non-toxic households. It’s a feeling that actually saddens me because anyone that knows me is aware I love toys. Not at a normal level ~ I enjoy buying them more than my kids enjoy receiving them. I really thought this made me a good mom.

When my Mommy Footprint journey began, many things changed in our household. I began to experience a new awakening of the environment and also an understanding that I need to check products for myself before trusting that big name companies were watching out for my children. Because of financial reasons and having a house that is filled with too much ‘stuff’ I’ve been scaling back for the better part of 11 months and feel quite ashamed of my access in the last 6 years of being a parent. I’ve also realized that many things in my house are indeed toxic; cleaning supplies, personal care products, and toys. My focus with this article is toys and the important lesson for consumers that purchase toys for small children.

There is so much confusion with the terms PVC, phthalates, plasticizers, types of plastic, etc., it still has me scratching my head at times. There are a few things I’ve learned and it would have altered the course of my parenting had I known that most soft plastic toys are toxic. If you knew that a child simply mouthing a PVC plastic toy could be compared to a child sucking chemicals from a sponge wouldn’t you call poison control and find out what the effects were? Well the European Union really had a grasp of this problem back in the 1990’s and banned a lot of products that continue to be sold in Canada and the US ~ why? In 1997 Austria, France, Greece, Mexico, Norway, and Sweden all banned phthalates (one of the most common chemicals used to make plastic soft) from being used in toys.  Why is North America so much slower to react?

PVC is one of the most widely used forms of plastic, but it’s known as a human carcinogen. What would possess a toy manufacturer to use it in toys? We know that during the processing of PVC, dioxins, one of the most toxic chemicals known are created and released. Over the course of it’s lifetime, PVC plastic leaks harmful additives and because it’s not recyclable, PVC ends up being burned or sits in a landfill. Burning this plastic is very harmful because dioxins are further released (air pollution), so it most likely ends up sitting in the landfill where it further pollutes our soil.

So I’ve written about soft plastic toys previously because my children have all mouthed and bathed with soft plastic toys their entire lives. What do I know about these toys to date? The chemicals used to make these toys soft pose potential health problems with mainly reproduction and cancer. That’s not a good feeling. I’ve spoken with toy manufacturers and taking the first step would be researching toys that are ‘phthalate free’. But ~ I would go one step further and purchase PVC free toys. If you are purchasing a tubby toy or teething toy, there should not be PVC plastic anywhere near it. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at sites for non-toxic bath toys (because all my children love playing in the tub) and in all my research, I’ve managed to find only 2 brands/products I would feel 100% comfortable with: Green Toys and Boon.

Another product line I’ve talked about in the past that has been a savior with my kids is Green Toys. I can’t tell you the peace of mind I have when I watch my twins (every night) have a tea party with their Green Toys tea set. Made from recycled Becel containers, I’ve been able to rest assured that chemicals aren’t leeching from the cups, spoons, saucers, and tea pot they play with every night. My best purchase to date for my girls and they’ve just turned three!

I’ve struggled of late with plastic. You think you’ve got your mind wrapped around BPA, phthalates, PVC. etc., then something new comes along and it’s overwhelming. I wish I could zap myself back in time and change many things with my children. Understanding more about toxic products would have really helped me. I’m trying not to be really angry when I read articles published by Greenpeace about the danger of PVC and toys back in 1999. I join their fight against toxic, environmentally destructive, and dangerous toys 10 years later, where I feel like nothing has really changed. I’ve even learned that PVC hard plastic exists with many toys and wonder if Barbie is still made from PVC, like the Greenpeace website confirms. She turned 50 this year ~ I wonder if the manufactures know that there are now alternatives to traditional plastic, like corn or natural rubber.

** Side note to this article ** I did call the Vancouver Aquarium because I wanted to know how their soft PVC plastic toys were produced because of my concerns about phthalates and toxic tubby toys. The manager told me that as of Sept/08, they confirmed that their soft plastic toys were made phthalate free. This made me feel better until my friend posed the question ~ what chemical plasticizers did they use to get the PVC plastic soft? It’s just so true, they have to put some sort of checimal into hard plastic to make it soft, so my advice would be to by-pass all PVC products and stick to non-toxic alternatives.

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Quick Reference Guide When Shopping For Personal Care Products

When you’re out shopping and trying to remember what products are safely recommended or what ingredients are best to avoid, all while the kids are acting up in the cart…it starts feeling impossible to start reading through confusing ingredient lists.  Well the kind folks at EWG (Environmental Working Group) have produced a printable wallet card listing ingredients to avoid while shopping for cosmetics and personal care products so you have something to quickly refresh your memory.  I printed off something similar in the summer when searching for non-toxic sunscreens for my kids and found it very handy!

I also found this list of products to avoid very interesting from the EWG site..hmmmm off to check if my liquid hand soap contains triclosan…

Cosmetic products to avoid:
• Anti-aging creams with lactic, glycolic, AHA and BHA acids
• Hair dyes with ammonia, peroxide, p-phenylenediamine, diaminobenzene, and all dark permanent hair dyes
• Liquid hand soaps with Triclosan, aka Antibacterial hand soaps
• Nail polish & removers with fermaldehyde
• Skin lighteners with hydraquinone

I just checked my liquid Softsoap (common brand of liquid hand soap) and although it doesn’t contain Triclosan, it does contain an ingredient on the ‘naughty’ list: DMDM Hydantoin.  This ingredient is listed on EWG as a toxic contaminant.  To think I started the de-tox of toxic household products 8 months ago to discover stuff like this is very frustrating.  Makes me realize I haven’t even scratched the surface.  You can’t trust the big names in the beauty industry since my Softsoap is manufactured by Colgate-Palmolive.  The only name bigger than these two companies is Johnson & Johnson and many of their personal care products for babies contain phthalates and chemicals.  Yuck!

One large store that is North American, UK wide that I’m really impressed with is Whole Foods.  I’ve heard they conduct secondary testing of products they carry.  This means they do not just trust what companies tell them blindly so they run testing in-house.  They also have a list published on their site of unacceptable body care ingredients.  It’s great to know that every ingredient the Environmental Working Group listed on their printable wallet card is included in this ‘unacceptable’ list from Whole Foods.  They can’t guarantee that none of their products will contain these ingredients, but at least they’ve publicly announced that they are taking ever effort to source products not containing them.  To view the ingredients on this list, click here.  Hmmm I see a large forum on the Whole Foods site too.  Hard to find forums talking about natural topics…might be worth checking out.  For a list of Whole Foods locations, click here.

We all know I’m a big fan of EWG, but it’s nice to see there are other companies looking out for our health by carrying natural products, minus the chemicals. One Mommy Footprint reader recently told me that Whole Foods carries their own line (365 Everyday Value brand) and the prices are very reasonable. (Thanks Sabrina!) Shopping for natural products no longer needs to break the bank!  

January will be the month of talking about ways to rid your home of toxic products and link to places to find healthy alternatives here at Mommy Footprint.  Next up is natural nail polish….I’ve been looking to paint my twin’s nails since the summer and I’ve finally found a safe, biodegradable brand!  Stay tuned.

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Parabens – Moms Should Check Their Cosmetics

We have been learning about health concerns with personal products, toys, and plastics and protecting our children, but have you stopped to think about your own cosmetics?  I watched a video clip on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) web site that prompted me to check my own skin care line. If you are like me and attempt to read the ingredient lists of my personal products, I just wind up confused (and convinced that I need to take an English course because I can’t sound our most of the ingredients). Plus, as one of the scientific analysts for EWG stated, that reading the ingredients list if pointless unless you know what to look for. And they go on to say that half of our cosmetics contain an ingredient that is linked to reproductive problems or cancer.

Especially interesting from the video, was the scientist mentioning the chemical paraben.  I’ve seen it mentioned in various places, but didn’t know what the problem was.  Even at the Farmers Market last Sunday, I noticed a vendor selling non-toxic products and she was marketing them as ‘paraben free’. The simplest way I can explain the problems these two chemicals (phthalates and parabens) cause is that phthalates attack a boy/man’s reproductive system and cause an assortment of cancers and parabans attack a girl/woman’s reproductive system and cause female cancers. I thought that I only needed to worry about my boys with the problems that phthalates cause, but after watching this news video, I started checking my own personal product line and noticed many of them contain ingredients ending in ‘paraben’…isopropyl-paraben, isobutyl-paraben, butylparaben to name a few in my Paul Mitchell smoothing hair conditioner. Yikes!  I am also glad that I’ve replaced all personal care products for my girls with the non-toxic Trukid brand.  Especially after reading that parabens are reported to be carcinogens found in breast cancer tissue as well as the problems they cause with reproductive hormones.

More breast cancers in women?  More testicular cancer in men?  Are the chemicals the cause? This is the million dollar question. I’ll put in my two-bits to this debate. From the second I wrapped my mind around the issue with BPA, I knew there was something to the debate about this chemical. Why are so many young people we know battling infertility, MS, cancers, etc.? I think everyone agrees it’s environmental and I would add that the chemicals like BPA, Phthalates, and Parabens contribute to the many health issues that effect the child-bearing public. So, as mother’s especially, we are so diligent about protecting our children from harmful chemicals…maybe it’s time to look at our own personal products. You can check your products on the EWG’s cosmetic database by clicking this link. We need to make sure that we are keeping ourselves healthy as well as our children.  If you are like me, the more you learn, the more aware you are about these issues and it perpetuates around you.  I’m sure my family and friends are tired of hearing about these environmental concerns – but it’s getting us talking about it!  Spread the message of better health through your group of friends.

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Trukid Product Discount For Mommy Footprint Readers!

Trukid Sunscreen is rated number 2 out of all the sunscreens reviewed by the Environmental Working Group.  Wow – what an honour for the company to receive the top spot by the helpful scientists at EWG.  What is so great about the Trukid company and their sunscreen products (Trukid Sunny Days Facestick Mineral Sunscreen and Trukid Sunny Days Mineral Sunscreen) is that unlike many of the other safe brands recommended by EWG, Trukid is easier to find and a much better price point.  It’s especially easy for Mommy Footprint readers because Trukid has provided a discount for anyone shopping on their website www.trukid.com with our very own coupon code.  When $25 or more is purchased, you receive 20% off the order by using coupon code: footprint.  Isn’t that awesome?  When you order multiple products, shipping rates are very reasonable.  Their website is very helpful as there is a Shipping and Sales Tax calculator after you’ve added items to the shopping cart, but before you submit your billing and payment info.

This offer is open to US and Canadian readers, so check out their website if you’re still sourcing non-toxic products for your kids ** www.trukid.com ** I’m very excited with the Trukid product line.  There isn’t a toxic product in their vast line of children’s products.  Here are some products that look awesome and can give parents peace of mind that phthalates or other toxins are not touching their child or baby’s skin.  I’m intrigued by the ‘Hero Stick’.  This product is marketed with ‘herbal heros’ to nourish skin with cuts, scratches, bug bites, etc.  How cute is that?  My kids have been collecting scrapes on their knees and bug bites by the bucket full this summer.  Here are more…

TruKid™ Sunny Days™ SPF 30 Sunscreen Stick
TruKid™ Hero Stick
TruKid™ Bubbly Body Wash
TruKid™ Cool Conditioner
TruKid™ Happy Face & Body Lotion
TruKid™ Silly Shampoo    

You know a company is dedicated to safety and kids health when their website has a great blog that talks about tips on correct sunscreen application and what makes a sunscreen non-toxic.  A good read if you want more information on the Trukid product line.

For more information on sourcing non-toxic, safe sunscreen and personal care products for your family, check out:

Non-Toxic Sunscreen For Kids – Badger, California Baby, Blue Lizard, TruKid, Alba Botanica?

Safe Sunscreen Guide For Children

Protect Your Family From Phthalates In Your Home

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Protect Your Family From Phthalates In Your Home

What are phthalates and why should parents be concerned?  Phthalates are man-made chemicals used in PVC plastics and many products that surround our home and children. They seem to have a similar effect on humans as BPA…targeting reproduction systems as they are endocrine disrupters. But unlike BPA, this chemical is especially potent for boys as it targets their developing reproductive systems causing great harm such as genital abnormalities, birth defects, and decreased sperm count in men. Phthalates are also linked to asthma, allergies, testicular cancer, and early puberty.  As a parent, when you see the products where this chemical lurks – you’ll be concerned.  Continue Reading →

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