Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How to Choose Safe Toys

It can be quite hard to get safe toys for your children these days.
There are the concerns of
- lead in the toy's paint,
- phthalates in the plastic rubber toys (banned in European toys),
- PVC from the hard plastic toys
and so on. The scare with the toys made in China awakened many parents who started to look for safer alternatives. One should be pretty concerned when buying toys for his/her kids whether made of wood or plastic. Some think that if the toys are made from wood they are safe and this is probably because they are free of phthalates. But they may not be free of lead and other chemicals used to glue the pieces; so not all wooden toys are safe. I have created a list of things to look for when byuing toys for your kids.

  • Avoid toys made of plastic that uses PVC (identified as number 3 or vinyl).

  • Avoid any plastic rubber toys like those fishes or ducks for bath.

  • Look for fleece dolls and stuffed animals made from post-consumer recycled materials.

  • Look for toys made from unfinished wood but pay attention at the glue that may contain formaldehyde. Any solid wood toy is preferable to one made with pressed woods such as plywood and particleboard, which are formed with glues that give off toxic fumes. You can often see the layers of pressed wood when looking at the edges of toys and puzzle pieces. However, to ensure that solid wood came from responsibly managed forests, look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, which prohibits clear-cutting and the use of old-growth and endangered tree species.

  • Look for wooden toys finished with natural oils such as linseed, walnut,and beeswax which are safest.

  • Look for solar-powered electronic toys or those that run off of rechargeable batteries, juiced up with a solar charger. Because rechargeables contain heavy metals--such as nickel, cadmium, lithium and lead--be sure to treat them as hazardous waste at the end of their lifespan.

  • Choose very carefully the toys that are for mouthing/sucking period of your child. Better get some 3-4 more expensive safe toys than 10 unsafe toys. They do not need that many.

  • Choose European toys - they ban phtahlates in toys, formaldehyde, polybrominated flame retardants and many other chemicals.

  • Look for information on toy recalls. The website for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has information on infant toy recall.

  • Avoid toxic items and materials that could cause poisoning. Look for paint sets, crayons and markers that are labeled nontoxic.

  • Use the Healthytoys.org database. The Consumer Action Guide to Toxic Chemicals in Toys, is a database with results of 1,200 toys and children products and data from over 3,000 individual samples of different product components. The toys are rated for 5 elements that represent the chemicals of concern: lead, mercury, cadmium, chlorine (PVC), and arsenic. There are lists with worse and best toys and children products.
    The database does not have all the toys tested but if you do not find what you are looking for you can request new toys and products to be tested.

  • Opt for organic cotton (grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers), unbleached cotton (free of dioxin-producing chlorine), hemp and wool colored with low-impact, colorfast dyes. Wool is naturally fire-resistant--yet another reason to choose it.

  • If you're ever in doubt about a toy's safety, discard it.

Some examples of safe toys:

Plan toys - mostly wooden; they comply to E.U. standards.
Haba - comply to E.U. standards.
Nuno Organics - has stacking boxes from birch wood, treated with non-toxic water based stains.
Nova Natural Toys and Craft - sells playthings made from local white pine, finished with polemerized linseed oil.
Melissa and Doug - mostly wooden; uses water-based paint.
Sassy - majority are made from plastic but they claim that their products are free of phthalates, PVC and Bisphenol A
Lego - PVC & phthalate-free ABS plastic.
Chicco - the majority is made from plastic, PVC free.
TinyLove - PVC free.
Lamaze baby toys - PVC free.

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