The safety of toys and children’s products are in the news once again, but this time it has to do with compliance and regulation of phthalates, as well as the enforcement of lead levels in children’s products. Both topics deserve their own separate posts, so look for one on lead levels later.

According to CPSC:

Starting on February 10, 2009 children’s toys and child care items cannot contain more that 0.1% of any of the six phthalates (DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP, and DnOPA) regardless of when they were manufactured.

What are Phthalates?

Phthalates (Pronounced THAL-ates.) are a group of man-made chemicals that are structurally related to the organic acid, phthalic acid. The most important use of phthalates is in plastics, especially PVC, where they act as plasticisers. Essentially, phthalates aid in making certain plastics softer, certain toys like rubber duckies are a prime example.

Source: based on the GreenFacts Digest on phthalates

What’s the big deal about phthalates?
As the EWG describes,

phthalates are ubiquitous in modern society; they are in toys, food packaging, hoses, raincoats, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, wall coverings, lubricants, adhesives, detergents, nail polish, hair spray and shampoo. So the big deal is, Phthalates have been found to disrupt the endocrine system. Several phthalate compounds have caused reduced sperm counts, testicular atrophy and structural abnormalities in the reproductive systems of male test animals, and some studies also link phthalates to liver cancer, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s 2005 National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals.

The regulations are now in effect, what now?
Because the regulation went into effect yesterday, some retailers are prepared and others not so much. Retailers like Toys R Us have set up helpful websites to aid in understanding this topic.  There are also resources such as Healthy Toys that features a database of safer products.  A lot of these products in questions may already be in your home, so it would be at your discretion what you do with them. For us, the questionable plastics continue to be phased out in our home, including bath toys and plastic sippy cups. There are plenty of affordable alternatives, so we opt to go the safer route.  So, we have less plastic toys (as in, we avoid buying questionable plastic toys at all costs) and use mostly our stainless steel sippy cups.

On the other side of the spectrum, smaller retailers, like the local mom and pop stores, could be hard hit with these new regulations.  According to reports, the abrupt change and the lack of guidelines has left many smaller retailers questioning these new standards and compliance, as well as questioning current inventory.

Here’s some helpful information I found on products regarding phthalates:

  • According to the CPSC, stopped using phthalates in teethers in early 1999: ArcoToys, Chicco, Disney, Evenflo, The First Years, Gerber, Hasbro (Playskool), Little Tikes, Mattel (Fisher-Price), Safety 1st, Sassy, Shelcore Toys and Tyco Preschool.
  • Soft Landing has a list of phtalate free bath toys
  • A guide for healthy toys
  • TRU’s link that focuses on safety-related issues
  • Opt for products made with latex or silicone, both of which are resilient for babies
  • Discard any soft, plastic toys that were manufactured before 1999, especially if the ingredients are unknown.
  • Look for toys and furniture that don’t contain polyvinylchloride (PVC) #3. These may contain plasticizers called diisononyl phthalates (DINP) shown to cause birth defects, cancer and organ damage in mice. New PVC products often have a strong odor; if it smells like a new shower curtain, it’s probably PVC.

More resources and helpful articles on phthalates