Toxic Toys: How to Choose a Safe Toy for Children
January 20, 2023
By Healthy Child Staff
Editors’ note: This article was originally published in Natural Child World Magazine.
With the input of experts at HealthyStuff.org and a brain trust of mom bloggers who share their knowledge with Healthy Child Healthy World, I’ve pulled together a list of 7 tips for buying non-toxic toys to consider before you head out to a store to buy a safe toy for your kids or new baby.
1. Buy less. Do you really need to buy a new toy? Depending on the age of the child, she may prefer a book you promise to read out loud to her. Another special kind of gift is an experience; a trip to the zoo or amusement park or a tour of the local fire station. Sometimes getting “stuff” is less interesting than other options only you can create.
2. Buy used. Before heading out to a toy store, check your neighborhood for a swap or store that sells second hand items. Often you can find toys that have been hardly touched for a fraction of what they would cost new. Be sure to check for recalls, however.
3. Avoid plastics. Vinyl plastic toys are the worst plastic toys for the environment and your child’s health. Vinyl itself is toxic and it’s loaded with chemicals like lead and phthalates that cause real damage to human health. Vinyl is junk that is toxic throughout its lifecycle: production, use and disposal. If you can’t bring yourself to abandon plastics entirely, choose safer plastics labeled 1,2,4 or 5 in the symbol usually found at the bottom of the product.
4. Choose natural materials. Choose unpainted wood toys, cloth toys or plush toys instead of plastic toys. Watch out for painted wood toys unless it is certified that the paint is non-toxic and lead-free.
5. Just say no to metal jewelry. Lead is a big problem in jewelry. Tests by HealthyStuff.org found over half jewelry tested contained chemicals of concern, including cadmium, a known carcinogen, and lead. Bottom line: steer clear of cheap bling.
6. No batteries. Here’s a great rule of thumb. If batteries are required for a toy to operate, leave it on the shelf! Unless you’ve pre-cleared it, parents of young children will thank you for leaving at the toy store loud toys that whoop, talk, or blare sirens.
7. Choose high quality toys. Buy toys built to last. High quality toys can take a beating and still last long enough to be handed down to a younger sibling or friend or even sold to a second hand store once your child has outgrown it.
Finally, consider this option. Rather than buy a toy, find a big empty box and fill it with a blanket, a wooden spoon, an old pot, and maybe a harmonica, and tie it all together with a big bow. Now that’s a present a kid could really love.
Here’s a list of websites to watch before you head out to purchase any toys.
- Healthy Child Healthy World - We cover all the news related to toys, chemicals and kids. We’re a resource to help you keep your kids’ environment safe. Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on environmental health issues for children and families.
- HealthyStuff.org HealthyStuff.org is based on research conducted by environmental health organizations and other researchers around the country. You’ll find research about chemicals in everything from toys to garden products to car seats.
- Center for Health and Environmental Justice - CHEJ helps communities protect their health from toxic hazards. They do groundbreaking work to raise awareness of the health threats posed by vinyl or PVC plastic.
- U.S. Public Interest Research Group – The U.S. Public Interest Group issues an annual survey on toy safety called “Trouble in Toyland.” USPIRG covers issues from basic consumer safety related to toys, as well as chemical safety issues.
- Consumer Product Safety Commission – The CPSC is charged with protecting the public from risks of injury or death from consumer products, including toys. Check the CPSC website for up-to-date information about toy recalls.