Only a handful of the thousands of chemicals used in everyday products, including children’s toys, have been thoroughly tested for safety in children. The most common toxins found in many products are:
- bisphenol-A (BPA)
Unfortunately, toy manufacturers are not required to label their product contents, so finding out which toys contain toxic chemicals can be difficult. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC), however, is working to ban several of these toxic substances from common products, especially toys. In 2017, the CSPC voted to ban several harmful phthalate chemicals from plastic used in children’s toys and products.
Safe shopping tips
While pots, pans, and cardboard boxes can entertain children, most parents would still like to provide toys for their tots. Here are some safe shopping tips for avoiding toys with toxins:
- Examine test results. The HealthyStuff.org database created by the Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental organization, contains test results for more than 8,300 products.
- Review safety index. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group provides a toy safety index. It is updated annually to coincide with the holiday shopping season, but its information is relevant throughout the year.
- Learn about recalls. The CPSC maintains a searchable database of recall notices, where parents can access information about particular products or hazards. However, the agency does not monitor the thousands of toys in the U.S. marketplace at any given time.
- Buy toys made from natural materials, such as solid wood (unfinished or with a non-toxic finish), or organic cotton, hemp, or wool. When choosing outfits for dress-up play, avoid products that claim to be stain-resistant, waterproof, or odor-fighting, since these terms often indicate the use of chemical treatments.
- Pay close attention to toys made with soft plastic. Hormone-disrupting phthalates are still used as plastic softeners in polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Healthy Child, Healthy World recommends that “if a toy is a squishy plastic… or if it has highly flexible plastic as a component… you should avoid it or call the manufacturer to ask if the product is made with PVC or phthalates.”
- Shop smart. When it comes to antique or imported toys, parents should consider whether the item could be finished with toxic lead paint. If you can't be sure, don't buy it.