Tag Archives | toxic toys

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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Are Cosmetics Killing Us?

It’s such a harsh title for an article, but the Environmental Working Group posted a similar title ‘Beauty Secret: Your Make-Up Can Kill You’ and not only did I sit up and read it, I agree.  I’ve long wondered why so many young people seem afflicted with disease and problems that used to happen later in life, and weren’t so common.  Why are 30 year old woman getting breast cancer, why are so many couples struggling with fertility problems, and why the high rate of immune problems?  The list goes on and even to a lesser degree…why have most children you know at one point been diagnosed with either eczema or asthma and why do girls in Grade 6 look so overdeveloped?  Most will agree it’s environmental.  Well what if it’s the chemicals that leech from our plastics, the body care and household products we use to ‘clean’ with, the air freshener we spray around children and pets, or the make-up we apply to make ourselves beautiful?  Even people’s pets these days seem to have higher rates of cancer. 

I’m not a scientist or at all educated on environmental issues, but I do believe much of what watchdog groups like EWG have to say.  After all, they’ve been bang on about bpa and phthalates.  We spend so much time checking labels and ingredients for our children, take a few minutes and review what scores your own body care products receive using the skin deep cosmetic safety database.  If the rating isn’t low, make it a New Year’s resolution to take a trip to Whole Foods, Planet Organic and surround yourself with some natural products.  My Noxzema scored a 4 on the cosmetic database and it’s really the only beauty product I use.  That score doesn’t impress me, so I’ll need to replace with one of the many solutions out there that scored 0-2 which is low level of concern for hidden chemicals, etc.

What are a few easy things you can do today that will remove many chemicals from your home/self immediately?

Use only natural personal care products on yourself and family.  Either that or use nothing at all (when I run out of natural soap and shampoo for my kids, I just use water).  Products purchased with the rest of your groceries (Johnson & Johnson, etc.) contain phthalates and this is not good news if you have boys.  Phthalates attack their reproductive systems and you can’t search for this in an ingredient list…it’s a chemical that manufacturers sneak into products masked with the word ‘fragrance’ on the bottle.  So steer clear of anything with fragrance for your entire family….yes even Johnson & Johnson’s baby shampoo contains phthalates! Read more here: Protect Your Family From Phthalates In Your Home

Get rid of fabric softener or dryer sheets.  One of the most toxic things in your home…they release chemicals two ways:  through the skin and in the air.  Just stop using them and find out natural ways to help with static cling. Read more: Dryer Sheets & Fabric Softener – A Household Toxin

Don’t spray febreeze, air freshener, or plug-in room deodorizers… they are only masking odor with chemicals released through fragrance for your family to ingest.

Replace your cleaning supplies.  Ever wondered why your head is pounding after cleaning the bathroom or glass windows?  If you are spraying traditional cleaning agents, your headache is from inhaling toxins. Your children, family, and pets are also inhaling and touching those products. Eco-friendly cleaning products are sold everywhere these days and not only are they much better for the environment, but it’s much easier to clean thanks to companies like Norwex! Read more: Norwex – Cleaning Without Chemicals

I still find my children bathing or mouthing soft plastic toys.  PVC plastic is dangerous to human health…it’s proven that it releases the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm immune and reproductive systems.  Remove any soft plastic toys that might contain PVC from your home.  Something that still makes me sick is the Vancouver Aquarium gift shop sells isles of soft plastic toys, dolphins, whales, snakes, etc.  Every time I would take my boys there as toddlers, I would buy one of these figures so they could play in the tub with them.  I even bought an octopus for my girl’s to teeth on because the tentacles on the toy felt good against their gums when they were cutting a new tooth.  Last time I was at the aquarium, I noticed a sign under each bucket of these toys that read “PVC”.  It upset me for two reasons.  I had purchased these toxic toys for my kids to mouth, bath, and play with.  I also wondered how many parents know exactly what PVC means and why would they continue to sell them?  If you want to warn people about a product, write the word TOXIC underneath, not an acronym that most people don’t understand.  Sorry to start a rant, but I really suffer from guilt about the world of plastics and how much exposure my family had before the chemicals came to light for parents.

I look forward to highlighting companies in 2009 that are offering natural alternatives to traditional products that we grew up with.  I think we can look around and see that the cleaning agents, cosmetics, fragrances, and world of cooking with plastic, just isn’t working for us anymore.  If you don’t know where to start, check out the wonderfully natural site Nayla Natural Care.  A great place to start to find replacement products for your home.

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