What should I be aware of regarding children’s toys and play areas?
Don’t be fooled by the label, toys can contain toxic materials – the nontoxic label on children’s products is not regulated by the government leaving the manufacturers to decide! Many of the chemicals in children’s toys do not undergo rigorous testing by the government and labels don’t always represent the true hazards of a product. Protect your kids from toxic toys by staying informed.
Plastic toys made with PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) can leech harmful toxins like phthalates. Some everyday plastics also contain bisphenol-A. Be wise with plastics and keep an eye out for products that are "bisphenol A-free" and "phthalate-free".
Art supplies can contain hazardous chemicals, such as benzene and toluene; and materials such as asbestos, silica, lead, and cadmium. Read labels for more information on the safety of the product you are using. The immediate effects of exposure can range from headaches or nausea to burns, breathing problems, and damage to other organs. Long-term exposures to the chemicals in art supplies may lead to cancer, reproductive harm, and damage to the brain and nervous system causing memory problems, cognitive difficulties, and attention deficit disorder.
Low-temperature modeling clays also pose a hazard at home. Manufacturers of these brilliantly colored polymer clays sometimes use plasticizers like complex glycol ethers or phthalate ethers (diethylhexyl phthalate or DEHP), which are now known to be animal carcinogens. The ethers are absorbed through the skin and, to a lesser extent, can be inhaled when the clay is fired.
Kids’ makeup kits may contain toxics such as toluene in nail polish. Toluene is flammable, irritates the nose, throat, and eyes and makes the consumer feel dizzy.
Purchase products for school-age children, with consideration toward the least-toxic product.
It is also a good idea to stay informed on the latest toy recalls by adding your email address to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s free email list.