Tag Archives | phthalates

PVC & Christmas Toys

Sometimes I struggle remembering the old days of running through Toys R Us blindly picking out all of the plastic toys that my kids would love (if only for 2 minutes before they broke) that light up, shoot things, and were made with cheap plastic. I remember the kind of ignorance I once had and it was a very peaceful ignorance.  I had no idea what PVC plastic, phthalates, plasticizers were and I wasn’t haunted while shopping for my kids. I used to have the bulk of my Christmas shopping finished in August every year, getting great deals because my shopping list was dictated by sales, rather than any sort of eco conscience.

Well, two years later, things have really changed around here with shopping, planning, and budgeting for Christmas. Rather than rushing out to buy toys when they go on sale, I Google toys first to find out where they are manufactured and what materials they are made from. It actually makes impulse buying impossible. I was very excited to start shopping for my girls this year since they are so creative and imaginative at 3 years old. They also have a deep love for Ariel the mermaid, a Disney character, so having an Ariel doll, Prince Eric doll, and the rest of the characters under the tree for my girls was pretty high on their list. Only deep down I know that all of the ‘Disney Princess’ and ‘ Barbie’ type dolls and their accessories are plastic and made with PVC.  I could totally make an exception if they were just made from plastic and not PVC, but I truly don’t believe Mattel or Disney statements about what they use to make their plastic dolls. I also put this question out to The Safe Mama and The Safe Landing and they confirmed my fears.  So for weeks now I’ve been trying to rationalize my fear of having my daughters cuddle brand new PVC dolls and thinking that Santa is the best thing ever or trying to find a Waldorf type looking doll that is made from cloth and filled with safe stuffing and removing the commercialism from Christmas. It may sound silly, but these types of decisions haunt me. I think all parents just love finding that perfect toy that their children will shriek with pure joy when they unwrap Christmas morning.

I am trying to stick to a big goal this Christmas with plastic toys ~ unless it’s been purchased 2nd hand or from a thrift store, it will not be going under the tree. Wish me luck.  Right now, my frustration with the Barbie/Disney type dolls is not their body shape being distorted, but the material in which the doll is made from is toxic. Frustrating still that the only mermaid toys I could find for tubby time for my girls were Barbie mermaids.  And please know, as I do now, that the bendy tail on her mermaid body is filled with phthalates to get it bendy, and the rest of her is created with PVC plastic – the most inexpensive and toxic plastic that exists. And the fact this toy is meant to go into water (a bathtub) with children and the plastic it’s made from has been called a carcinogen. So why am I struggling with this if I know purchasing these toys might lead to cancer causing materials to surround my children? I wish I could answer that.

Forget the fact that Barbie or the Disney dolls cannot be recycled or ever by properly disposed of.  I wait for the day a huge manufacturer of kids toys (like Mattel) to decide to use their billions of dollars and produce ‘plastic’ toys from the natural rubber tree like Plan Toys or the manufactures of Sophie ~ why can the smaller companies do it and the large ones can’t?  I’m really not big on the idea of boycotts or slamming a company via a blog, but all toy companies need to be held accountable for damage caused to human health and environmental health. Starting my mental check-list of Christmas shopping for my kids should not be this hard or require this much research, but in fact, toy companies cannot be trusted with my children’s health. They have proved one too many times that they don’t care enough.  And apparently with the billions of dollars they make, there are not enough parents asking them to change. I hope they experience huge losses in profit this Christmas and that the greener toys manufacturers and small shops that produce toys by hand are the people that truly profit this year. They are the people that are protecting my children with sourcing different ways to produce toys that don’t adversely affect a child’s health. Blech -shopping used to be so much easier and enjoyable.

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Toxic Experiment With Everyday Products ~ Slow Death By Rubber Duck

Have you heard the buzz about the book called Slow Death By Rubber Duck?  The two authors are leading environmentalists in Canada, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, and by using their own bodies conduct a 4 day experiment to document how using everyday products known to contain BPA, Phthalates, Teflon, (to name only a few!) and what the effects in their system will be. The experiment could be compared to the Supersize Me documentary, but these results are more shocking because most people know that eating nothing but McDonald’s food is really bad for you.  The results from Slow Death By Rubber Duck might shock you, but because so many of these products are used in the food and products we are in direct contact with, it’s better to learn how to eliminate these chemicals that enter your children and family’s bodies. For example, did you know that newspaper ink contains high enough levels of BPA that can absorb through your skin?  I was surprised by this and many more sources the authors uncover.

Rick and Bruce tested the levels of these 7 chemicals from their experiment: Phthalates, Teflon, Flame Retardants, Mercury, Triclosan (antibacterial), Pesticides, and BPA.  First they attempt to detox their bodies fully from these chemicals, test/document the levels in their blood and urine, then expose themselves to these chemicals through everyday products and food that are known to have high content.  Then they re-test their blood and urine and publish the results. The most shocking part of the experiment for me was not only the high levels in specific chemicals, but also the realization that trying to eliminate levels of chemicals like BPA and Phthalates is impossible. Rick would know better than anyone else (he’s the Executive Director of Environmental Defense for Canada) what to avoid and he consulted with scientists that have been studying these chemicals for years. He could only get the levels of these chemicals low but not at zero because he realized for example if he’s trying to avoid all phthalates though personal care products, the chemical might wind up in milk he drinks because a farmer might use soft tubing containing this chemical to remove milk from a cow. Tracking this and proving it back to the dairy supplier would be impossible. Thinking that your coffee is okay to drink but then realizing the coffee shop selling it has parts of their coffee machine made with polycarbonate plastic – now the coffee contains BPA.  Really, until our Government steps in and bans and controls these chemicals we are faced with a long road with our health chemically polluted. 

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PVC Plastic ~ The Poison Plastic In Your Home

I had a light bulb moment today with PVC plastic – time to get my head out of the sand with this plastic known as ‘the poison plastic’ and realize it’s in more places than I care to realize in my home.  It is crazy why BPA gets all the media attention when Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC or vinyl) is the worst known plastic for our health releasing chemicals that cause cancer and other known health problems.  Many household products are still made from this plastic: plastic food wrap, fake Christmas trees, lunch kits, flooring, clothing, etc. It’s not just shower curtains that need to be reviewed and replaced – we are talking about everyday household items! In many opinions, this plastic is devastating to human health (a known carcinogen) and proven to cause cancer and I want it as far away from my children as possible.  Would you continue to use a product that has a warning across the packaging “using this product may cause cancer” and keep it in close contact with your family members?  Of course not, but it’s finding out where it’s lurking in your home.

It’s overwhelming to wrap your mind around all the places that may contain PVC.  I downloaded the PVC-free guide called Pass Up The Poison Plastic produced by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice and it was very helpful and something all parents should read.  After going through this document, I can guarantee you’ll discover items in your life that you didn’t know contained PVC.

Still not convinced that you need to rid your life of PVC plastic?  It’s recently been written that PVC vinyl flooring might be linked with autism in children.  That is pretty powerful  – here is the article from Eco Child’s Play.  Still not convinced?  To quote the Center For Health, Environment, Justice:

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic, commonly referred to as vinyl, is one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created.  PVC is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life cycle, at the factory, in our homes, and in the trash.  Our bodies are contaminated with poisonous chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, which may pose irreversible life-long health threats.  When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems.

How did the realization just come about for me personally?  I discovered the cling wrap I use is made from PVC and I’ve been using it to wrap the kid’s food for lunches.  Should it be touching my kid’s food?  No. Why did I not already know this when I’m entrenched with green products and issues on a daily basis? I can’t answer that either. You just don’t see as much reported about PVC – more about the harm caused by phthalates and BPA. I learned this week that I need to become more diligent about sourcing healthy PVC-free alternatives in my home.  Action items I took away from researching the article is to find out what kind of flooring is at my kid’s schools, find out if products (like my Christmas tree) continue to leech air-borne phthalates every time they are used even when they are several years old, research more food storage ideas that are PVC free, and purchase a PVC-free (non-vinyl) water hose for this summer because my kids always drink from it.

When it comes to children’s products and toys, it’s also not clear-cut which are made from PVC because most don’t have the PVC resin code stamped clearly on the product. The recycling code for PVC plastic is number 3 (with chasing arrows around it). I use the term ‘recycling code’ loosely though because you cannot recycle PVC plastic, which has a colossal impact to the environment because of it’s wide use. Actually, one PVC plastic bottle can contaminate a recycling load of 100,000 PET bottles because of the many different toxic additives used to soften PVC (phthalates, plastizers, etc.), so if you think a product is made from this plastic, you might be doing more harm by tossing it into the recycling bin. If this is still confusing, try watching the ‘Sam Suds and the case of PVC’ video on the Campaign for Safe, Healthy Consumer Product’s site. It’s even okay for kids to watch because it’s a cartoon and an entertaining and basic introduction to learning about PVC. Another great video that is timely with Earth Day quickly approaching is The Story About Stuff. It’s only 20 minutes and Annie Leonard exposes the connections between environmental and social issues and will forever change the way you view ‘the stuff’ in your life.

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Less Is More Theory and Experiment

I’ve noticed with interest that dollar stores in my community are going out of business.  You would think in this economy where people are trying to save money that the dollar store business would be going strong.  Could it be that consumers, especially parents, are realizing that less is more?  I believe so.  Back-to-basics, sustainability, quality, craftsmanship, safety are words that parents are willing to pay more for.

From toys, to beauty products, and even our produce ~ I would rather buy organic, pesticide-free for my children.  Shopping in smaller amounts, rather than filling up my cart, without thinking through what I’ll truly need to use.  There has been much buzz about pesticides to avoid with food and mainstream press is starting to write about how toxic most personal care products are.  From organic food, to organic shampoo/soap, to safe toys made from natural or stringently tested materials come at a higher cost.  As a parent, I’m willing to pay a few extra dollars for products I know are coming from business that care and source products with the safely of my children at the forefront.  Most bios from mompreneurs include the fact they were deeply unsatisfied with answers, product selection and product knowledge from traditional stores.  I challenge anyone reading this to an experiment we’ll call the ‘Less-Is-More Theory’.  Walk into your local department store and ask the store clerk or manager questions about their toys, bath toys, personal care products, produce, water bottles, etc.  I myself started doing this when I noticed most store chains have started branding their store label on stainless steel water bottles; Old Nay, The Bay, London Drugs, Superstore, even Dollar Stores.  Not one of these retailers could tell me anything about their store branded stainless steel water bottles.  They had no idea what stainless steel grade they were or that there were different steel grades out there.  I hear about dollar stores that simply ‘dip’ the outside of water bottles to coat god-knows-what material underneath.  I’m not saying these retail stores are doing this, but from a quality issue, I’d like to know more about the grade I’m purchasing so I know how to care for it.  If you are nervous about purchasing bath products (personal care or toys), food or water containers, or plastic toys and the store cannot answer simple questions I would not purchase them.  Here are some basics that they should be able to answer:

What grade of stainless steel is this?
What type of plastic is this made from? Where is it manufactured?
Does this product contain phthalates, parabens, fragrance, BPA?
Is this toy (bath or not) PVC free?
What pesticide is used on this produce item?

If the person cannot answer your questions ~ don’t buy it.  Now finish this challenge.  Contact any of the store owners from this list of businesses and ask them the same questions.  I would bet a lot of money, they can answer your question, plus give you more than you expected:

Green Planet Parties
Healthy Kitchenware
H2Ox2
Kai Kids
Natural Pod
Nayla Natural Care
The Tickle Trunk

The list goes on, but you start here and receive top notch customer service and product knowledge.  You will never think again that getting Dollar Store bargains for these types of products is a good idea.  Dollar store priced stores have their place for certain types of products in my opinion; however, the health of your family is not an area they where they specialize and no price tag can be put on the future health of your children.

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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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