Because we live in a world where plastic is everywhere, it’s easy to succumb to the idea that plastic is harmless. And, because you can’t see how the chemicals that are used to make plastic actually leach, it can be difficult to grasp that they can leach “like water from a wet sponge.”
As the coming holiday approaches and every store has an abundance of toys made out of plastic and also wrapped in plastic, SafBaby wants you to understand why the only way to keep your child’s health safe from harm is to “Say No To Plastics.” When you look around, you’ll soon realize what a tall order that is. But, think about starting first with items that your child puts in their mouth or those they use for food and drink. You may often feel overwhelmed, but the health issues that are a result of exposure to plastic is well-documented.
New 2017 Ban on Plastics
In 2008, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act to strengthen the authority of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to address the health hazards from lead and phthalates. The evaluation and recommendation of CPSC led Congress to ban three types of phthalates in children’s products: DEHP, DBP and BBP “in any amount greater than 0.1 percent (computed for each phthalate individually) in: (1) children’s toys and (2) any child care article that is designed or intended by the manufacturer to facilitate sleep or the feeding of children age 3 and younger, or to help children age 3 and younger with sucking or teething.”
This was an important ruling, but there are many more phthalates of concern in everyday products. It is important to understand that while consumers are trusting products to be free from harm, manufacturers are not required to reveal anything about the chemicals they are using. In fact, the CPSC had proposed bans on more phthalates but stalled finalizing their proposal for years due to pressure from “phthalate-manufacturing chemical companies like ExxonMobil.”
On October 18, 2017 after a decade-long process and a lawsuit brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Justice Health Alliance and Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted to ban five more harmful phthalate chemicals from plastic used in children’s toys and child care articles.
This is another step in the right direction but what do these rulings really mean for parents?
The takeaways are:
- The fact that there are bans should alert parents that their children are in danger of harm from exposure to plastics.
- There are still millions of consumer products that contain phthalates that are not being banned, are not labeled and are harmful.
- Every time you avoid plastic, you will be supporting your child’s health.
With this in mind, please read the information below. Awareness is the first step in comprehending how dangerous these chemicals are to everyone, but especially children.
Interview with Mike Schade, PVC Expert by SafBaby Founders
SafBaby: Phthalates were banned in toys in the United States in 2008. Are phthalates still found in some toys?
Mike Schade, PVC Expert: The ban on phthalates in toys doesn’t apply to ALL phthalates, so some phthalates that are not included in the ban may still be found in vinyl toys. And certain phthalates are only restricted in products for children under 3, or for products that may easily be placed in a child’s mouth. Therefore, some phthalates may still be found in children’s vinyl toys, especially toys for children above 3 years of age.
Additionally, not enough is known about the health hazards of some of the phthalate and non-phthalate replacement chemicals.
“Study after study shows that vinyl products leach hazardous additives!”
The best way to avoid the use of phthalates, lead, cadmium, organotins and other toxic additives in children’s toys is to avoid vinyl/PVC all-together, as study after study shows that vinyl products leach hazardous additives. Additionally – the production and eventual disposal of vinyl toys is fundamentally hazardous to our health – as it releases cancer-causing dioxins which we are all exposed to, as the release of dioxin from vinyl’s lifecycle is building up in our food and bodies. There is no safe level of exposure to dioxin. Some studies have also found that vinyl toys contain and leach elevated levels of cadmium and organotins which also pose health hazards to children and consumers.
“80% of children’s school supplies we tested contained phthalates, and 75% of all children’s
school supplies we tested contained levels of phthalates so high they would not be allowed in toys.”
It’s also worth noting that even the phthalates that were banned in toys continue to be used in many other products that children come in contact with on a regular basis such as children’s back-to-school supplies. For example our investigation into children’s school supplies found that 80% of children’s school supplies we tested contained phthalates, and 75% of all children’s school supplies we tested contained levels of phthalates so high they would not be allowed in toys. While phthalates are banned in toys, they’re allowed in children’s school supplies such as backpacks and lunch boxes. Phthalates are also very common in building materials in our homes and schools, such as flooring. Studies have found associations between use of phthalates in flooring and asthma, the #1 chronic childhood illness in America today.
Is there a legal US limit of PVC in toys (all toys or just teething toys)?
No. Unfortunately PVC is still allowed to be used in children’s toys, despite the fact that PVC is the most toxic plastic for children’s health on the planet.
If it says PVC-free, does this mean the manufacturer is allowed to have it up to a minimum level. If yes, what’s the legal limit?
There’s currently no formal standard for PVC-free products globally, however a new sustainability standard was recently developed which addresses PVC and some other priority chemicals of concern in children’s toys.
To be authorized to carry the EcoLogo®, plastic and rubber-based components comprising 1% or more of the total weight of the toy must meet the following criteria:
In addition to the restrictions listed in section 4, plastics used in EcoLogo® certified toys may not contain bisphenol A or any of the phthalates identified as DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP, or DnOP; Ecologo® certified toys shall not include chlorinated plastics such as polyvinyl chloride.
Can you educate us on the difference between PVC and phthalates. It seems parents AND manufacturers are still confused.
PVC is a plastic that stands for polyvinyl chloride, and is commonly referred to as vinyl. Vinyl is the most toxic plastic for children’s health and the environment on the planet. From production to use to disposal, vinyl uses and releases fundamentally hazardous chemicals such as vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride, chlorine gas, mercury, dioxins, and numerous other chemicals of concern. These chemicals are linked to serious health problems including cancer, diabetes, learning and developmental disabilities, reproductive health problems, etc. There’s no safe way to make this plastic.
Phthalates are chemicals that are often used to soften or “plasticize” vinyl products. You can’t make PVC soft and flexible without adding plasticizers such as phthalates to the polymer. Over 90% of all phthalates are used in vinyl products, such as the flooring inside of our schools and homes. Phthalates are not chemically bound to the plastic and can escape from the product, which can eventually make their way into our bodies. According to testing by the federal government, children and women of childbearing age face the highest exposure to phthalates.
Do you think a nationwide ban on PVC (toys, packaging etc.) a possibility in the near future?
We don’t see that happening right now. However, the chemical industry should stop toying around with our children’s health and develop a comprehensive plan to phase out the use of toxic PVC toys.
As SafBaby mamas, we’re frustrated about the USE of PVC in packaging for toys. Although the product is PVC-free, it doesn’t make sense to use PVC in packaging. Any comment?
Absolutely, especially as chemical additives in the PVC packaging can migrate onto the surface of the product. Thankfully many companies have been eliminating the use of PVC in packaging. For example, Hasbro has worked to reduce and eliminate the use of PVC in packaging.
Is ABS a safer alternative to PVC?
We don’t recommend ABS as a replacement material because like PVC, ABS plastic is made from fundamentally hazardous chemicals.
Our Back to School Guide discusses this concern:
This plastic is manufactured with styrene, a chemical that can damage the nervous system and is listed as a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Other key chemicals used in its manufacture include acrylonitrile and butadiene, which are both listed as possible human carcinogens.
What is the safest plastic in toys?
Safer plastics for toys include those made out of polyethylene polymers, polypropylene and biobased materials. Most toys are not labeled for plastic content so the best way for parents to find out is to ask the manufacturer or retailer directly. This is an unfortunate reality. Parents shouldn’t have to be chemical detectives when shopping for their little ones, which is why we need stronger safeguards at the federal level to restrict dangerous chemicals in our children’s products.
Lots of parents ask us about the safety of the most popular toys like Pet Shop, My Little Pony, Barbie, Action Figures for boys, Vtech toys etc. Are these made of PVC?
Many of these are still made out of PVC unfortunately. I don’t know whether or not all of them are. The best way for parents to find out is to contact the manufacturer directly and ask them what material the product is made out of. Parents have a right to know what’s in their children’s products! Another helpful resource is Healthystuff.org.
What other PVC products (not toys) are kids exposed to daily? Can you name 5 and give parents a safer alternative?
“The Amazing Spider Man Backpack contained an estimated 52,700 parts per million (ppm) and 14,99ppm of DEHP in two different locations. If this product were a children’s toy, it would be over 52 times the limit set by the federal ban.”
– CHEJ Back to School Guide 2012
- Children’s vinyl lunch boxes
- Children’s vinyl backpacks
- Children’s vinyl raincoats
- Vinyl flooring in homes and schools – linoleum flooring is a much safer option. It is a bio-based material made from linseed oil, is not a chlorinated plastic like vinyl (thereby avoiding the release of dioxins and furans).
- Vinyl playground equipment – visit Chej’s Vinyl School for an interactive website to find alternatives to this and many other common products in schools.
Check out CHEJ’s 2016 Back to School Guide to PVC-free School Supplies and help CHEJ safeguard our children from toxic chemicals in lunchboxes, backpacks and other school supplies.
No Toxic Residues On These Toys!
There is no reason to buy plastic toys when you’ve got these options. These toys are made with so much love and this is how you know … all of them are GOTS-Certified. The fabric is 100% organic cotton and consciously manufactured to avoid the most toxic chemicals. Your child is growing. Surround them with the safest, most beautiful materials.
Bright, fun to hold and comforting to teethe on, this lovable organic toy and teether is one of Under the Nile’s most popular toys.
It’s part of the Scrappy Collection, which means the Scraptopus is made with all the soft leftover scraps from Under the Nile’s toy collection. What you see is what you get: the Scraptopus always comes in these bright, primary colors.
A registry favorite.
This snuggle bunny is perfect for your snuggle bunny. Easy for little hands to grab, so soft they won’t want to let go.
This soft organic cotton toy bunny’s little feet are perfect to gnaw on. And like all of Under the Nile’s stuffed animals, the inside is pure organic cotton because these bunny rabbits are GOTS-certified Grade 1 through and through.
Snuggle Bunny is 13 inches tall.
Fruit and Veggie Crate
“Hey! I’ve seen that before! It looks like my toy carrot and I love playing with carrots!” Crunch.
This fruit and veggie crate is a perfect way to introduce these healthy foods to your baby. The crate comes with Tomato, Carrot, Green Bean and Mushroom.
And yes, the fruits and veggies were named by children … very straightforward names. Crate measures 8″ x 6″ x 4.5”
Check out these and other GOTS-certified toys in our SafBaby Shop!
About Mike Schade
Mike Schade spearheads the Mind the Store campaign which aims to work with the nation’s leading retailers on creating comprehensive chemicals policy. For the previous eight years, Mike was the Markets Campaign Coordinator with the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), a national environmental health organization where he led national campaigns to phase out PVC plastic, phthalates, BPA and dioxin. Prior to CHEJ, he was the Western New York Director of Citizens’ Environmental Coalition. Ethisphere Magazine listed Mike as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics for 2007 and the PVC Campaign received two awards from the Business Ethics Network.
He is the author or co-author of numerous reports including the Wasting of Rural New York State-Factory Farms and Public Health, Volatile Vinyl-the New Shower Curtain’s Chemical Smell, Baby’s Toxic Bottle-BPA Leaching From Popular Baby Bottles, No Silver Lining-An Investigation Into BPA in Canned Foods, and Toxic Toys R Us. He has a BS in Environmental Studies from the State University of NY at Buffalo.
Links of Interest
How Dangerous Is PVC in Toys? We’ve Got The Answers From THE Expert.
The Safest Solution to Plastic Bottles
Children Leather & Plastic Shoes: Pollutants, As Far As The Eye Can See! Part 1
BPA-Free Plastic Bottles May Not Be BPA-Free
Stainless Steel Ice Cube Trays Makes Safe Frozen Baby Food: A Safe Alternative To Plastic