Choosing Safe Toys
Toys might be playthings, but protecting your kids from their dangerous effects is serious business. The 2-year-old Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act helped protect little ones from exposure to lead and phthalates in toys, but now there’s another concern: cadmium.
As described by WebMD, it’s also a toxic metal used by manufacturers instead of its predecessors. Regulators and health and safety advocates are lobbying to lop cadmium from the list of toy ingredients, but the question remains: What’s next?
It’s impossible to create a “clean room” for kids, nor would you want to raise a child so divorced from real life. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to reduce exposure to substances that can impair health and to minimize the negative effects some toys have on the environment.
Healthy Stuff is a consumer guide/database that identifies safe toys. It also offers information about testing if any has been conducted. The Consumer Product Safety Commission posts recalls online, as does Recalls.gov. If a toy you own is recalled, follow the company’s instructions on how to get a safe replacement.
Otherwise, here are a few tips to promote fun and reduce the chances of a toy causing more trouble than it’s worth. For everybody.
- Choose natural over synthetic. Opt for toys made of solid woods with no finish or a nontoxic finish, and organic cotton, wool, felt, and other textiles.
- Recycle household items. Kids are happy when their imaginations are encouraged to run free. An empty box, a set of stainless steel bowls, empty rolls of paper towels can become a fort, an orchestra, an arsenal of gentle weapons.
- Avoid cheap jewelry and kids’ cosmetics. These products generally carry a higher health risk. Kid jewelry often contains high lead or cadmium levels and kid cosmetics often are laden with questionable chemicals.
- Purge plastics. It’s difficult – OK, impossible – but strive to buy less plastic. And when you do, look for those labeled Nos. 1, 2, 4, or 5 within the triangular, recycle arrow icon usually found on the bottom of the product. If there’s no label, call the manufacturer.
- Buy less. Buy fewer toys. It’s better for the planet and saves you money.
- Spend more for what you do buy. High-quality toys last much longer and can be enjoyed by successive users.
- Read labels. What’s the toy made of? Where was it made? Google the manufacturer and/or the toy’s name to find out what other users say.
- Buy local. The shorter the distance a toy travels from manufacturer to user, the less the greenhouse gas emissions. If you’re buying foreign products, remember that Europe, Canada and Japan have more stringent toy regulations.
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