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Toxic plastic toys

After Christmas some parents may start to go through the piles of toys their children have received and ask if some of them really were necessary. Since the recall of many toys painted with lead, parents are much more aware of potential risks some toys may harbor. The danger of lead is meanwhile known, but what about other toxins? Phthalates, a chemical produced from oil that is added to keep plastic flexible and durable, has come under scrutiny as well. As of February 2009 the government has banned six kinds of phthalates (DINP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP, and DnOP) under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in toys for children ages 3 and under. This means that these chemicals can be found in toys for older children, in cosmetics, car products (the “new car smell” is a result of phthalates) and vinyl floors for example.

So what are the risks of phthalates? In earlier studies these chemicals have been found to disrupt the hormonal balance in children, especially the reproductive development in boys. A Swedish study in May 2009, concluded that children living in households with vinyl flooring were more likely to develop autism. This research was not intended to study autism; therefore experts are calling for more studies in this field.

To avoid phthalates altogether, read the ingredients in personal care products, such as deodorants, lotions and so on. The term “fragrance” or abbreviations such as DBP and DEP indicate the presence of toxic phthalates. Some children’s toys advertise phthalate-free. You may have noticed that the industry has started selling BPA-free (another phthalate) plastic bottles, due to increasing consumer demand. If you are buying plastic Tupperware, for example you could avoid plastics marked with the numbers: 3 (PVC or V), 6 (Polystyrene or PS), and 7 (phthalates), as they all leach into the foods and are suspected carcinogens. To see if one of your child's toys has been recalled, you can visit this federal website: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/category/toy.html

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