Toxic Holiday Toys-The Gift that Keeps Giving…dangerous chemicals

Could the holiday toys you buy be toxic?

Just as we dive into the holiday season a warning about shopping at Toys “R” Us.

In spite of a promise two years ago “to reduce the use of PVC in the toys they sell and to offer more PVC-free products, the store has not kept its promise.” Imagine 72% of the toys that were tested by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice contained high levels of chlorine-which means they more than likely were made of PVC, polyvinyl chloride.

PVC is dangerous when additional chemicals are added to alter its consistency. Imagine the difference between a soft child’s toy and a PVC pipe. These additives allow polyvinyl chloride to be used in many different ways. The problem is that these chemicals can leach out. Think about that the next time you see a baby, toddler or older child chewing on their favorite toy.

Phthalates, one of these chemical additives, “are easily released because there is no covalent bond between the phthalates and plastics in which they are mixed. As plastics age and break down, the release of phthalates occurs.”  This release can also happen into food if it is stored, or heated, in a plastic container that has phthalates.

The problem is that phthalates mimic hormones and this affects our endocrine and reproductive systems. Most Americans tested by the CDC show evidence of multiple phthalates in their urine, and this is especially hazardous for children (and phthalates can be found in personal care products too).  Some other places that you can find them are in vinyl flooring, vinyl shower curtains, adult sex toys and even intravenous bags (one large hospital network even signed a contract to have vinyl free intravenous bags and tubing made for them-so it is possible). “Children that live in homes with vinyl floors, which can emit phthalates, are more likely to have autism, according to research by Swedish and U.S. scientists published in May 2010.”

These endocrine disruptors have also been linked to problems with male sexual development in humans as well as fish, and also childhood asthma and ADHD. There may also be a link between obesity and exposure to phthalates too, since they are metabolic disruptors. You can read much more about them here, and I encourage you to educate yourself about them.

Making these products is also dangerous to the workers. Around the world workers when they are exposed to vinyl chloride emissions have high liver cancer rates-and the EPA knows this. The process of making vinyl chloride also creates dioxins as a by-product. You can read much more about polyvinyl chloride here.

My question is, when we know all this why are manufacturers allowed to use these chemicals? Why aren’t our governmental agencies that are supposed to be protecting us, prohibiting companies from selling products that are making us sick? In the EU many of these phthalates have been restricted or banned for use in kids toys. There are some restrictions in the US, but it doesn’t seem as if they are being adhered to or enforced.

Some days I look around my kitchen and wonder if everything in there is safe, and I don’t use much plastic, but I am looking twice at what I still have. What about the dishes that I use, are they safe, could they have lead in them?

When kids toys can be dangerous we need to start really looking around us and start asking some serious questions. Some months ago I posted a story about the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck which talks about all of the chemicals around us and how we are being affected by them. This YouTube video is about this issue, and you will hear how the government agencies that could be doing something lack the resources to do their job properly. Maybe if our government leaders hear from us they will start to reallocate funds rather than allow unsafe products to be untested and available to poison us.

Another problem is cadmium in toys and kids jewelry. It is being used as a substitute for lead (and there are still toys out there with lead) and this news show will give you more information about it.

There had been a Toxic Toys “R” Us web site but it no longer is up and running-I wonder why… This is such a serious issue that even the Teamsters Union was involved in the report on the “toxic toys”. You can sign this petition to ask Toys “R” Us to phase out PVC.

So when you are out shopping for toys (of any kind), and also other products, take a good look and spend the time to find out if it is made from PVC, or contains lead, cadmium or other toxic chemicals. It looks as if we have to look out for ourselves until we can get the government to do its job.