Safe Toy Research & Whole Foods in bed with the bad guys

Ok, title of post a bit alarmist…
Now that Sufyan is at the age of efficient grabbing and enjoying of toys, I have been doing some more thorough research on toy safety. I have been hearing about phthalates, BPA, PVC, lead in toys, things made in China, things made in the USA, wood vs plastic vs latex vs plush toys…et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And, me being me, I worried that I had a toy basket full of toxic toys and that Sufyan had surely already done irreparable damage because I didn’t research the water filled teething rings I bought from *gasp* Target!
What I found while spending time over the last 2 weeks browsing was very eye opening. What surprised me was that it actually isn’t that hard to find toys that are free of these known toxins–even at Target (I am not knocking Target, by the way. Just making fun of my own toy snobbery). That said, I usually feel safer buying toys/teethers/whatever at specialty toy stores or places like the baby section at Whole Foods. Ha HA! Get this, though. The other day I was shopping with Sufyan in Whole Foods baby section and he was squirming and gnawing on me…I wanted a teether. The only teether they had was this one by Munchkin:

So, I thought, WF prides itself on pre-researching the products it sells so that I can just buy with confidence. I wasn’t totally sure, so I didn’t give it to him until we got home and I had done an hour of research on the plastic in this teether (saved the receipt just in case). Guess what? The teether is fine, but Munchkin is a member of the Coalition for Consumer Choice, “a pro-BPA group which opposes BPA reform on behalf of major toy and feeding product companies and chemical industry trade organizations”! (see this website for more info).
I am disgusted with Munchkin and with Whole Foods for supporting them. I am going to go talk to the manager at my local WF and then see what I need to do to petition them stop doing business with Munchkin.
What would you do?
Before you think that I am overreacting, consider this: The European Union has limited public exposure to BPA and banned phthalates altogether! That’s right, The EU’s food agency (in 2007)set a maximum limit for human daily intakes of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical implicated as a potential carcinogen and widely used in plastic food packaging and cans.
And, toys intended to be placed in the mouth by children under three years of age and containing phthalates are prohibited throughout the European Union; importing these products is also prohibited. Phthalates are toxic substances that may be found in soft PVC, a type of plastic which is also used in the manufacturing of toys.
That means Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom are protecting their citizens and particularly their children…why aren’t we???

Allow me to pass on to you who are interested the fruit of my hours of compulsive web surfing.


Bathtime toy safety basics
A good place to start.

2 Search here for your toy by name, type, and brand and get a report on chemicals in question. The site is kind of new, so not super comprehensive, but I found some things I was using.

3 Perhaps a bit alarmist, but a good blog with lots of info and links. Find out what exactly phthalates are and link to some research about them. Plus links to a BPA cheat sheet and other envirotoxins you may want to know about and avoid in your own home.

4 BPA info in a more science-y format but still very user friendly. You want to know about this organization (Environmental Working Group) because they do a lot of good. They have a “chemical index” link which will tell you about the chemical in question, possible health effects, and where it is found in what concentration. They are an action group, and are pushing the agenda of the Kid Safe Chemicals Bill (HR 6100).
I use EWG all the time for a database called “Skin Deep” which researches and reports on chemicals in things like kids sunscreen. Very reputable.

5 Another great resource for lots of different things, but the teether section is great because it has pics of the different teethers they mention. So you can look yours up by memory and don’t have to know what brand you bought 3 months ago…

6 Great place to shop for safe toys including PVC-free plush toys and wooden toys. Of course, shop locally if possible (Rootin’ Ridge anyone?) but this site is also a good place for ideas.

7 A very comprehensive blog about toys, toy safety, and links to better toys. The amount of info here is huge, but it’s a very easy to use site.

8 A site for all things baby safe. Good homegrown research like what you are doing now by reading this.

Ok, ready set go…I hope these links are useful!


4 thoughts on “Safe Toy Research & Whole Foods in bed with the bad guys

  1. Europe is not always the best model for consumer safety. A lot of their top-down legislation for public safety is based on little to no scientific testing. They do things a lot differently here than in the US where there is usually some attempt to base legislation on science (though that is being eroded more and more these days). Genetically modified foods are also banned here, even though some GM has been demonstrated to have positive effects on human health and decrease the need for some toxins used in standard fertilizing methods.

  2. Actually, I learned most of the from my time in DC in the science policy game. There are a lot of good science advisers in DC, which makes the job of creating science-based policy more possible in the US (in theory). In practice, scientists are being pushed out of government or being overwritten by idologs. There used to be an independent scientific advisory organization, Office of technology Assessment, for Congress, and that was shut down. They were making recommendations ten years ago about issues that we are grappling with today. There is a blog and an archive of their findings here – are generally right on track though as consumer protection is not big on the DC radar until something catastrophic happens – then everyone jumps on board. They try to be a bit more preventative in Europe, but unfortunately, the science to verify some of the legislation requires a lot of time, and so they base some of their laws and restrictions on the non-science or pseudo-science that is already in the media or popular consciousness. Generally, Europe governments are more comfortable than the US about restricting it citizens ‘for their own good.’ That makes a big difference in consumer protection as well. In some ways, Europe feels more repressive than the US because of this attitude – I don’t like big brother telling me what is good for me.I must admit, though, that it is nice to have a large selection of organic and non-toxic products to chose from here compared to the US where selection is limited to a few retailers.

  3. Thanks Ravyn for all the work you did on this! I know it is exhausting especially when you’re so sleep deprived. We have to keep these kiddos safe as the almighty dollar seems to rule over the health of our children. It’s up to smart, loving parents to become educated so that these little ones grow up strong and informed. Ick, it’s so sad that we have to work so hard for things that should just BE.

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