Toxic toys

toxic toys

If you’ve ever set foot in one of those toy shops that stock the cheap-and-cheerful plastic toys and managed to get out without fainting because of the fumes, it may not come as a surprise that lots of toys contain dangerous amounts of nasty stuff. They’re called toxic toys.

UK authorities recently warned parents of toxic charms that go together with the super popular rainbow loom bands. The charms were found to have 400 times more cancer causing nasties than the permitted level. Despite this they were labelled with the CE safety mark – but so are most things sold at your local night market and I suspect only a fraction gets caught in the random tests.

In many countries the environmentally aware mamas are now shifting back to wooden toys and with all the information out there, no wonder: carcinogenic phthalates are used liberally especially in toys meant for older kids and lead is commonly found in cheap jewellery. I remember reading that the most toxins in a household are found in children’s rooms. In addition, obviously these things also continue to be toxic after they are thrown away, polluting land and water.

I feel there is still relatively little information in Malaysia about toxins in children’s stuff, but it is getting easier to find BPA-free bottles and baby clothes made with residue-free materials. Malaysia has actually banned feeding bottles containing BPA along with many other countries, but there is still a multitude of lunch boxes and bottles without the “BPA Free” sticker in the market.

I am a sucker for all things eco and organic, but would also like to see results of studies from countries with little or no regulation on toxins where children have been exposed to these toxic toys. It is scary to read studies on cancer in rats but us non-scientists may not be qualified to make the right conclusions. We get easily hyped up by one thing picked up by the media – and may not have the patience to follow-up, or don’t realise that while we frantically check for parabens in the ingredients list of the baby shampoo, we maybe should really be worried about something potentially much more harmful.

It must feel like an impossible job trying to beat the chemical and plastic industry but there are a few promising signs with large retail chains phasing out the most dangerous toxins and phthalate-free plastics getting more common around the world. It wasn’t so long ago people thought there was nothing wrong with leaded petrol but some smart, concerned citizens managed to turn the way petrol lobby was going – not a small achievement, I’d say.

I have not always managed to resist buying a fake princess figurine or two, or getting those bargain sandals at the market but really, I know better than that.

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