All Toys Are NOT Created Equal

Over the past several years, I’ve not only become increasingly more concerned with eating healthier but what is actually in the food I eat.  Is it all natural or are there several ingredients I can’t even pronounce?  What we put in our bodies and for that matter on our bodies is important.  Take, “I can’t believe it’s not butter.”  Okay, so we know what it’s not… ever ask what it is?  While I was pregnant I tried my very best to make smart decisions on what I put in or on my body.  From food to beauty products, I started looking into what exactly made up the things I used on a daily basis.  Turns out… it’s kind of scary.  So it’s no surprise that I’ve been concerned with what I expose Sam to.  The question came up, “What toys does Sam want for Christmas?”  Well, this was a can of worms I don’t think anyone anticipated…

Initially, I was concerned about toys because Sam will soon be putting EVERYTHING in his mouth.  What exactly is he chewing on and ingesting?  My research started out with just a simple google search for “baby toys”.  I just wanted to find what products were out there for Sam at 3 months of age.  One of the headings was, “Toy recalled for large amount of lead.”  Lead?  What is this, 1950?  So of course I read it and it turns out SEVERAL brands use lead based paints in children’s toys.  They allow up to 90ppm of lead in children’s toys. 

Of course you can’t perform medical research on children so these numbers are based off of research on the average 180lb adult man.  Little bit different than a rapidly growing and developing, 3 month old baby. 

Since our government takes the stance, safe unless proven otherwise, I took matters into my own hands. 

TOXINS

Lead

Exposure to lead can cause learning and developmental problems including delayed learning and decreased IQ scores.  Although it has not been found safe at ANY level, the Centers for Disease Control considers a blood level of 10ug acceptable and current toy standards allow up to 90ppm.  Furthermore, the CDC banned lead based paint in the U.S, BUT lead based paint may be used on imported toys.  Makes total sense, right?  Another fun fact is that a child’s stomach absorbs 50% of whatever lead they ingest compared to only 11% in adults.  I certainly did not realize how much lead is used in everyday products, such as, PVC products, rubber, plastics and paints until I did my research. 

PVC

PVC or polyvinyl chloride, is one of the most widely used plastic in the world.  It is made from flammable gas vinyl chloride (a carcinogen) and can easily be inhaled as it off-gases.  It is used in the pipe that brings the water that we drink, to vinyl windows, insulation, flooring, iphones, baby toys, food packaging, car dashboards, the list goes on and on.  PVC is all around us because it’s the most durable plastic.  However, it also happens to be the most toxic.  It is known as the worst plastic from both an environmental and health standpoint.  According to Center for Health, Environment and Justice, “chemicals released during PVC’s life cycle have been linked to chronic diseases in children, impaired child development and birth defects, cancer, disruption of the endocrine system, reproductive impairment and immune system suppression”.

Phthalates

Phthalates are mainly used as plasticisers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, durability and longevity).  As plastics age and break down, the release of phthalates accelerates.  Because phthalate plasticisers are not chemically bound to PVC, they can easily leach and evaporate into food or the atmosphere.  What’s the problem?  Phthalates have been shown to change hormone levels and interfere with normal growth and reproductive development in children.  The use of phthalates have been banned in Europe since 1999.  Get with it USA.  It’s best to buy phthalate free or PVC free products.  You will be amazed at how difficult this is to do.

BPA

If you have purchased pacifiers, bottles or any plastic baby product, you’re probably used to seeing BPA free advertised on the packaging.  It is considered a hormone-disrupting chemical that studies have suggested it could have a negative impact on brain development, behavior and the formation of the prostate gland in fetuses, infants and young children.  It has also been linked to heart disease and certain cancers.  In 2010, Canada became the first nation in the world to ban the use of BPA.  Currently, the chemical is also banned throughout the European union.  The FDA officially banned the use of BPA, or bisphenol-A, in baby bottles, in July 2012.  However, BPA is still used in several everyday products such as canned foods, metal water bottles, and get this… baby formula cans.  The route to take is to avoid #7 plastics.  #1, #2 and #4 are safer alternatives that do not contain BPA.  Of course using ceramic or glass are also great alternatives.

Flame Retardants

This never made an freaking sense to me.  Why are we covering baby products in flame retardants?  Why would my baby be left alone long enough to be enveloped in flames?!  Flame retardants also known as PDBEs or Bromine are highly toxic chemicals sprayed onto just about everything baby related.  From car seats, strollers, baby changing mats, pj’s, to mattresses and even toys.  In addition, they are widely used on non baby related items as well such as TVs, electronics and furniture.  Flip your couch cushion over and you may see this “This article meets the flammability requirements of California Bureau of Home Furnishings Technical Bulletin 117.”  Many health experts caution that the added chemicals likely pose a greater health risk than any flames they might fend off.  Common flame retardants have been linked with learning disorders, reduced fertility and cancer.  Washington state’s Toxic-Free Kids Act, is currently asking for the ban of the fire retardant chemical known as chlorinated Tris from children’s products.  Chlorinated Tris was banned from children’s pajama’s in the 1970’s but is still widely used in other products.  Last year, the California Environmental Protection Agency declared it a carcinogen.  Steps you can take is to avoid buying products with the label, “California Bureau of Home Furnishings Technical Bulletin 117” or thoroughly washing them.

So if these chemicals are so toxic and dangerous, why isn’t the government doing anything about them?

Definitely a question I asked when I started my research.  There are several organizations trying to get our government to make changes.  However, large corporations have put their lobbying powers to good use and so the government is sloooow to change.  This is why we as consumers we need to demand safe, healthy products for our children.  Countries around the world are taking steps to ensure the safety of their people and the US is very behind in some cases. 

The Good News!

There are safe alternatives!  Silicone is a great alternative for teethers, pacifiers, bibs, etc.  Wood is also a great alternative, although be careful.  Sometimes the paint used contains lead.  The brand Imaginarium uses lead in their paints and recently recalled products containing excess amounts of lead.

Turns out there are companies that value safe and natural products for our little ones.  Several of those companies are right here in the good ole U, S of A! 

Green Toys (Made in California)
Skip Hop Wooden Toys
Lamaze
Tiny Love
Haba
Begin Again (Made in Colorado)
Hape
BToys

I haven’t bought Sam a lot of toys yet… mainly because his hands are his favorite toy at the moment.  However, I will be exploring all of these brands and will have reviews on all of them!  Just from browsing their websites I think BToys is going to be one of my favorite brands.  The fact that Target carries them makes them extremely accessible and they are so eco-friendly!  Some of their packaging doubles as gift wrap!

I’m not going to be that parent that doesn’t let Sam play over someone else’s house because they have plastic toys or not allow him to experience life in an effort to keep him safe.  I can however limit his exposure to these harmful substances by purchasing products that I feel are safe.  Especially with products he will be using on a daily basis.  I recently pitched all of our plastic containers.  ALL OF THEM.  I try to only purchase and store food in glass containers.  You  may recall that we use Born Free glass bottles for Sam.  BEST DECISION EVER! The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that every parent has the right to do what they feel is best for their children.  I’m also glad to have this blog so I don’t have to look at eye rolls or hear the laughter of judgment in regards to my decisions as a parent.  It doesn’t mean I don’t welcome criticism or questions regarding my decisions but it does make it a bit easier to explain my side!

So, in conclusion, go ahead and do a bit of research yourself.  Decide what you are comfortable with as a parent and stick by those decisions.  We can’t bury our heads in the sand and stick with the phrase, “Our parents used these products on us, and we’re fine.”  Are we?  Who knows.  There are constantly new studies being published with words of caution on the use of these toxins.  Ryan and my stance is better to be safe than sorry.  I’m not going to wait for the government to decide what is safe and what needs to be banned.  Limiting our use of plastics and making ourselves aware of what we are exposing our children to is one of our top priorities.  Back to basics. 

http://healthychild.org/blog/comments/pvc_the_most_toxic_plastic/

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/story/2012-07-17/BPA-ban-baby-bottles-sippy-cups/56280074/1

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/07/bpa-banned-from-baby-bottles-sippy-cups/

http://digitaljournal.com/article/322346

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