Tag Archives | PVC and toys

Greener Holidays & Eliminating PVC Under The Tree

Hello!  I’ve been away for ages and miss writing terribly so I’m thrilled to be covering a few different issues on my mind: greener ways to wrap gifts, the annual ‘fake or real’ Christmas tree debate, and Toys R Us and toxic toys. Much of my time in the last 2 months has gone to sourcing for my on-line store Green Planet Parties. I wanted to find items that were very green and practical…items that are truly unique, truly green, and still whisper Christmas when you see them. What do you think about gift bags, gift wrap, gift tags, and cards that are seeded with wild flower seeds so they can be planted once they start to tear?  Sounds kinda cool right?  I thought so – I’m very proud of the category called ‘Christmas Wrapped Up‘ and the products listed here are either plantable or reusable. Not only are the plantable items magical, but the reusable cloth santa sacks, Furochic wrap, fabric gift tags, and wooden clothespin reusable/vintage vibe items looking great!  If you are like me, I cringe when I wrap presents for people or even when I reuse traditional gift bags because there is a strange odor from them.  It’s not my imagination..I’m convinced they are coated with something toxic. I know I should be using newspaper or craft paper, but sometimes (especially around the holidays) you want unique and seasonal presentation with gifts.  Enter plantable gift bags or wrap and cloth Santa Sacks – these products are truly green and will remove any guilt with wrapping your gift and leave you singing Fa La La La La the entire time!

My next holiday themed topic is the annual debate of ‘fake vs. real’ Christmas trees. Which one is truly kinder to the environment? Some people say that reusing a fake tree is a better choice because you’re not cutting down young trees each year.  Others will argue that trees grown specifically for Christmas season is a better choice for the environment. I haven’t felt qualified to cover this topic in recent years but I’m ready to voice my opinion and let me start by saying we’ve used a fake tree for close to 6 years and I always felt a little smug because the thought of cutting down baby trees made me sad.  But – then I learned that all fake Christmas trees are produced from PVC.  This is the plastic (#3) that is called poison plastic.  You just need to understand that after you purchase a fake tree it will never leave the earth in an environmentally kind way.  Never. It’s taken me years to fully understand that a fake Christmas tree releases toxic dioxins into the air, into our bodies from the time the plastic is produced with making it, after you purchase it (the reason it smells) and there isn’t a way to effectively dispose of the tree. If you burn it – more dioxins are released, it cannot be recycled, so it will continue to exist when discarded for a very long time. The issue of PVC isn’t only about it’s harm to the environment, but also human heath.  Please note that I’m not suggesting anyone with a fake Christmas tree throw it away.  When something is functional, it should be reused as much as possible.  This information is for people struggling with the decision of “should I purchase a fake tree this year”?  When I purchased my fake tree, I had no idea what it was made from. Now I can make an educated decision on my tree this year, but it won’t involve throwing out a fake tree if it’s still usable.  Would I ever purchase another one?  Definitely not.

A new trend last year were little tree companies that will bring you a potted tree to use over the holidays, then it’s returned to the nursery or transplanted. It is easy to find they companies using Google but I warn you, this option is wonderful and very eco-friendly, but it’s expensive. Could you not purchase a potted tree on your own for less money I wonder?

Or – a very sustainable option exists out of Chicago.  The price of this tree is the equivalent to an expensive fake tree – but it’s lovely and hand made, and I want one all for myself to decorate with acorn ornaments.  This picture is from the talented Forestry Handmade site… get ready to swoon.

Now that I’ve softened you up with wonderful relaxing photos of handcrafted Christmas trees, I have some hard facts about toys and PVC. I have drafted so many articles that I’ve never published because they are full rants about Hasbro, Disney, Barbie, Toys R Us, and many more companies that produce and sell plastic toys because of my frustration that they can’t keep the issue of ‘safe plastic’ a priority for our children’s health. I’m going to try and remove all the personal conflict I feel about plastic toys aside (I’ve ranted along these lines before) and stick to the facts that CHEJ outlined this week on a new site they’ve launched called Toxic Toys R Us. This is a project run by consumer advocates looking to inform consumers about the sale of PVC-contaminated toys at Toys R Us. The hard facts are that although Toys R Us promised to remove PVC plastic, phthalates, and lead from toys they sell back in 2008 but tests have shown that toys they sell still contain PVC and no amount of labelling from the large toy manufacturers will help parents to understand if they are truly safe.  I cannot wait for their Toxic Toys R Us 2010 Report…I wish it was already out. And it’s only Toys R Us that’s been called out on the issue of PVC and toys.. . and we should be aware that all other big box stores carry the same products, the same toys, with the same set of standards.  Again, what is the problem for a toy made from PVC to land under the tree Christmas morning?  The same problems that I outlined with the fake Christmas tree are true for toys.  I wonder if this is the Christmas that as parents (myself included) wake up and realize the damage plastic has done.

Sorry for the lengthy post, but I have very mixed feeling about Christmas and it’s wonderful that I can purge my feelings and perhaps help others who might be confused about different choices we can make this holiday season.

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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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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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