Toxic Toys for Christmas?

This subject is close to my heart, and really, this whole journey with the blog – started because of my babies and trying to find safer options for them.

I think especially now, this being a gift giving season, it’s a great time to learn about the issues with toys and toxins and about how we can better inform ourselves to make the right choices.

Eeyore Pook-a-Looz, Disney

Recent studies by HealthyToys.Org found that 20% of 1,500 popular toys tested showed detectable levels of lead. In products intended for newborns (changing pads, crib wedges, breastfeeding pillows) it was found that 80% contained chemical flame retardants that are considered toxic! This is a big wake up call for consumers, that until stricter regulations and controls are put into place, it’s up to us to inform ourselves.

I asked Linda of 2 Little Sprouts to answer a few questions – she sources safe, natural and eco-friendly products for children and I think that someone with the passion to bring in these safer options into Singapore, is a great person to turn to.

Read on to find out – when it comes to our little ones – what we should know, what we should avoid and what we should look for.

Little Green Dot:  What are the kinds of toys that we should be looking at with potential health hazards?

Linda: Basically cheap toys because they tend to be recalled often and these companies use cheap manufacturers to produce their toys, so the quality and assurance is low. This applies to all plastic, wooden and fabric toys because toxins can easily be found in their production.

We need to be mindful of how the child will play with the toy, especially infants and toddlers as they tend to put things straight into their mouth. Even older children will put toys such as pretend food, makeup or plastic blow up toys into their mouth.

 Little Green Dot:  Which are the toxins found in toys that are a cause for concern?

Linda: Lead based paint, phthalates, BPA and VOC are common toxins found in toys which are a cause for concern.Lead is known to be a toxin to the body and has been commonly added to paint for decades.  Exposure to high doses of lead can cause abdominal pain, nausea, brain damage, mental retardation, behaviour problems, anemia and even death. VOC – Volatile Organic Compounds – are gases emitted from certain chemicals. Some toys have a very strong plastic smell, some crayons and paints have strong smells and even playdough.

Exposure to VOC can lead to health problems such as headaches, nausea, dizzyness, eye, nose and throat irritation, allergic skin reaction and even more serious, cancer and damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system.

Little Green Dot: When we read PVC free of BCA free, what does this mean and why is it important?

Linda: PVC is  Polyvinyl Chloride, commonly found in soft plastic. It is the most toxic form of plastic to our health and the environment, yet it is the most widely used material. Dioxins are released during the manufacturing, use and disposal of PVC, especially during the recycling.

Phthalates are esters of phthalic acid and are added to PVC to increase the flexibility and durability of plastic products. They have been popularly used in teethers, pacifiers, milk bottles and teats and toys and easily leach out into our bodies. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors that can cause harm to both the male and female reproductive system.

BPA is Bisphenol A, commonly found in hard plastic. It is a chemical in plastic that behaves similiarly to estrogen and other hormones. Exposure to BPA can cause potential effects on the brain, behaviour and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and young children.

Little Green Dot: How do we identify safe toys?

Linda: Be an informed and concerned consumer. Read the packaging and look out for words such as: BPA free, PVC free, Phthalate free, Non-toxic, Lead free and paraben free. Do take note of where it is manufactured and visit the companies website to find out more about its ethics and contribution to the environment and society. A company that cares about the enivronment and how the manufacturing and end use of its product will affect the environment and people will more likely produce a high quality product that is safe.

Although the package may state it is non-toxic, if it has a strong smell it’s most likely the VOC your breathing in and that’s not a good thing. It’s also good to look for toys that are made naturally, eco-friendly and biodegradable. The more natural components a toy has the less chemicals and toxins.The Consumer Product Safety Commission has a great website you can visit to read about toy recalls and other products:www.cpsc.gov

Little Green Dot: When we look at natural options, what is the difference between, say, a conventional crayon and one made of soy wax?

Linda: Conventional crayons are generally made from paraffin wax, a petroleum by product and are not biodegradable. Whilst crayons made from soy wax are natural and biodegradable. The colours are brighter and they glide on paper effortlessly. They are smooth and blend easily.

Crayons made from soy wax could even be called edible crayons because if they were accidentally bitten or put in the mouth there wouldn’t be any harm done. And best of all, soy is a renewable resource.

Little Green Dot:  In your business, what do you look for when choosing your products?

Linda: I look at the product itself. What it’s made from and the components that go into its manufacturing and production. Whether it encourages the three R’s – reuse, reduce and recycle, non-toxic, phthalate free, BPA free, Paraben free, 100% natural and whether it is produced under fair-trade conditions.  I also look at whether it is innovative, creative and fun.

I look at where it is made and the quality. I read up on the company, it’s commitment and beliefs. I ask myself if this is what I would give to my own children to play with and to use and is this what other parents and children would like as well and how it would benefit them.

Instead of purchasing cheap plastic toys that only cost a couple of dollars and end up in the the landfill, we should look at purchasing high quality toys which are generaly safer and they last longer. In the end children get much more use out of them without being exposed to harmful toxins and the earth is a happier place. We should all do our part within our means, even if it is just one step at a time.

<><><> Thanks Linda! <><><>

P.S. My daughter recently acquired the Crayon Rocks from 2 Little Sprouts and I will never go back to regular crayons again! These guys produce such beautiful, bright colors! She loves using them and anything that inspires art and creativity in my daughter is ace in my books!

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