Kids Safety 101
baby chewing on a plastic toy

Just How Harmful Are All Those Plastic Toys?

Chances are, you’ve seen “BPA-free” or “free from phthalates” on a toy package recently.

That can be reassuring, if you’ve been told that phthalates and BPA is harmful. But what if you don’t really understand what BPA is, or why it is harmful?

It might really just leaves you with more questions, like what’s wrong with plastic toys, and are they safe? What’s in them, exactly?

Harmful Chemicals Found in Plastic

There are a few chemicals found in plastic material, mostly PVC, that make plastic toys relatively unsafe for kids and babies.

  • Phthalates – This is what gives a plastic toy that softer, squishy feel. These are also endocrine disruptors. They not only upset the body’s hormonal balance, they’ve also been found to stimulate the growth of cancers.
  • BPA – This is short for Bisphenol A, and it’s found in plastic toys, bottles, sippy cups, and even canned food lining. BPA can affect children’s behavior, as it mimics estrogen. It also influences other bodily processes, like growth, cell repair, fetal development, and reproduction.
  • Cadmium – This is used as a plastic stabilizer. However, it’s also a known carcinogen, and affects normal brain growth and can cause kidney damage
  • Lead – Yes, this is the same chemical that was banned for use in house paint back in the late ’70s. It’s used to make plastic toys more durable. Lead affects the nervous system, and has been linked to hearing loss, ADHD, and decreased IQ.

These toxins are most commonly found in PVC plastics, which should be particularly concerning to parents. Mainly, because just about every soft plastic toy is made with PVC. You’ll find it in teething rings, bath toys, and those little squeeze toys.

The issue here is that these chemicals can leach out of plastic — especially when babies or children put items in their mouth. But if chemicals like BPA are present in something like a plastic bottle, it will leach into the water, too.

Keeping Your Child Safe

Clearly, the easiest way to keep these toxins away from your child is to try to avoid them as much as possible. You can instead opt for wooden toys, natural art supplies, and silicone toys (especially for a teething baby).

Switching to other non-plastic items around the home is also another good step to take, like replacing plastic food storage containers with mason jars.

Polypropylene is one of the safest plastics for toys. It’s heat resistant and is unlikely to leach.

Start a LEGO collection! Seriously. Legos don’t contain PVC or phthalates, and they’ve also announced that they’re going to transition into plant-based materials.

Kat Sweet