Toys are meant to make children happy and put smiles on their faces; by understanding what toys are made of, we can aim to rid children’s toys of toxic chemicals and carcinogens and instead replace them with toys that keep children happy inside and out.
Children are more susceptible to heavy metals, metalloids, and toxic chemicals due to their size, rate of growth, and affinity for putting things in their mouth**. When buying children’s toys, there should be a conscious effort to understand what materials the toys are made of as well as their potential health implications.
There are currently standards in place for toy manufacturers to only allow specific materials in toys, such as the EU Toy Safety Directive and the ASTM International Standard for Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety. A study at the University of Gothenburg found that 30% of tested toys had chemicals that exceed these legal limits. These chemicals include phthalates, a type of endocrine disruptor that can have severe negative long term effects in humans.***
While second hand toys can seem like a great way to reduce one’s carbon footprint, it is crucial to understand what older toys are made of. Older toys that predate toy manufacturing standards can contain harmful toxins; the same University of Gothenburg study found that 84% of tested old toys and dress up plastic items contained disruptive toxins- that quickly takes the fun out of all of these toy****.
Being aware of this issue is the first step in solving the problem. Taking the time to understand what materials toys are made of is a crucial step in protecting the health of the children you care about. The Consumer Product Safety Commission aids in regulating toy safety and has information posted about research and education for the public. Additionally, considering giving gifts that are not made with plastics can avoid the issue all together! This could include wooden toys or experienced based gifts.
Toys are objects that we want kids to use to develop essential cognitive, motor, and creativity skills*; we should not be worrying about these toys exposing kids to toxic chemicals while they are gaining these important developmental skills.