Toys are important for babies as they help teach essential developmental skills through play. However, not all toys are created equal. Like many baby products, it’s important that you do your research to make sure that what you’re giving your baby is the safest option available.
Why is it so important to know what’s in your baby’s toys?
Very young babies and toddlers explore the world through their mouth. Babies are constantly putting things in their mouths! Babies and children are much more sensitive than adults when it comes to chemical exposures. Their skins are thinner, they have a higher metabolic rate, and they have a higher respiratory volume. Babies’ detoxification systems are not fully functional, and neither are their immune systems and nervous systems. All this means that babies are much more susceptible than adults to everyday toxins that are found all around us.
Surely there are laws against toxins in baby toys?
Governments around the world are playing catchup when it comes to hazardous chemicals in baby toys, and there have been a number of chemicals being investigated in recent years by the EU, the US and the Australian and New Zealand governments.
There have been limits placed on chemicals like phthalates, which are softeners used to make plastic more malleable. Various States in the US no longer allow manufacturers to use Bisphenol-A (BPA) in children’s products. There are already limits on toxins like lead children’s toys.
For many manufacturers, it’s all about the profits. So if it’s cheaper to use materials that have phthalates, cadmium, nickel, formaldehyde based glues, chlorine bleaches or flame retardants in them, and it’s not actually illegal, they’ll do just that. Sometimes, unethical manufacturers will use hazardous chemicals in products even though it is illegal.
It’s much more expensive for manufacturers to use natural materials to make safe, non toxic baby toys, but there are highly ethical companies out there making wonderful, eco friendly baby toys. So what should you look out for?
How to find Safer Baby Toys
Start by looking for brands with excellent records when it comes to the materials they use. Here’s a hint – it’s not always the multinationals like Fisher Price and Toys R Us! If you’re not sure how to find these brands, have a look for eco friendly baby stores like Hello Charlie that do the research on the brands that they stock.
- Look for baby toys made from natural materials. Start by choosing wooden toys where possible. Choose toys made from solid wood, and avoid those made with particleboard like MDF (as they’re held together with formaldehyde based glues). Make sure that the finishes are non toxic, like water based or vegetable dyes, or perhaps beeswax or natural oil finishes.
- When choosing soft toys, go with organic soft toys or toys made and stuffed with natural fabrics like bamboo, or corn fibre. Try to avoid synthetic fabrics, as you don’t know what chemicals they’ve been processed with.
- Avoid flexible plastics like baby books and bath toys unless you’re certain that they’re made from BPA free and PVC free (vinyl) plastics. Rigid plastics are generally much safer – see our post on safer plastics here.
- Avoid toys with a strong chemical smell. If the toys you buy, or receive, do have a strong smell – leave them outdoors or in the garage for up to a week so that they can off-gas and allow some of the hazardous chemicals to evaporate.
Yes, toys made from natural materials can be more expensive. But when you buy cheap toys, chances are the manufacturer has used the cheapest possible materials in that toy to keep the costs down.
If you buy good quality, well designed toys for your baby, you’ll find that they’re more interested in the toy for a longer time, making it better value for money. You can also choose to buy fewer toys, but better quality and safer baby toys.
The good news is that there are lots of wonderful toys made from natural fibres and materials that are so much safer for baby. To find some of these, start by having a look at Hello Charlie’s lovely range of eco friendly baby toys today!
ACCC & Product Safety Australia on phthalates: https://www.productsafety.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/972486
Think before you buy: http://www.thinkbefore.eu/en/toys/
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