It's been nine months since a federal toy safety law took effect, but toxic toys are still available at major U.S. retailers, according to product tests released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and reported in the Washington Post:
The Breast Cancer Fund supported an amendment to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act that banned six phthalates from toys and other plastic products for kids. Phthalates are chemicals that make plastic soft and pliable, but they're also linked to early puberty - a breast cancer risk factor. The law also bans lead in toys.
Despite a new law that bans six chemicals from children's products and lowers the lead limit for them, a public interest group has found a number of toys at major retailers that contain the chemicals and illegal amounts of lead.... [W]hile many manufacturers and retailers are complying with the new law, a handful are not, and it is hard for consumers to tell the difference. (Read complete article)
The law is good, but it requires the Consumer Product Safety Commission to enforce it. We'll continue to push for the safety protections Congress intended.
In the meantime, here are a few tips for safe, phthalate-free holiday toy shopping:
- Soft plastic toys that young children might put in their mouths may contain phthalates unless they are marked "phthalate-free," "PVC-free" or "EU compliant," or they carry the CE mark (which indicates that the product is compliant with European Union regulations and therefore should be phthalate-free).
- Both teethers and pacifiers sold in the United States are supposed to be phthalate-free already, though parents should purchase these items from reputable retailers.
- Recycling codes (if toys have them) may help you determine if the items are made with PVC, which often contains phthalates. PVC plastics are marked #3. Better choices are codes #1, #2 or #5. The Breast Cancer Fund recommends that people also avoid plastics marked #6 (styrene) and #7 ("other," but often BPA-based).
- To be safe, we recommend that parents discard soft plastic toys and childcare articles that do not fall into one of the exceptions listed above. When purchasing new items, look for phthalate-free toys and make sure retailers know phthalate-free merchandise is important to you.