ByRachel Sarnoff

Nov 28, 2014
Box of child's toys

Holiday toy shopping should bring joy, not fear. But it seems like each year the discovery of another batch of toys tainted with potentially toxic chemicals hits the news right around the holidays.

In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act was passed. Its charge?  To regulate lead and phthalates in toys and infant products after a public scare related to those made primarily overseas. But is that enough? When it comes to the health and safety of our kids, it’s worth it to go the extra mile.

Ready to find eco-friendly toys this holiday season? Here’s how to make sure your holiday toys are nice—not naughty.

  • Before you shop, take a minute to check Parents magazine’s list of this year’s toy recalls.
  • Try to choose gifts that are made in the USA and Canada.
  • If at all possible, look for ethically made holiday toys made from natural materials like wood and cloth, especially for babies who will spend a lot of time sucking on them.
  • Finally, if plastic holiday toys are on your child’s list, find out what type of plastic you’re buying by looking for a “chasing arrow” symbol on the bottom of the toy; avoid the numbers 1 (PET), 3 (PVC) and 6 (Styrofoam) and look for those marked “BPA-free. Here’s why it’s especially important to research your plastic holiday toys: PET and PVC (also known as vinyl) are softened with phthalates; even low levels of phthalates have been linked to obesity and asthma.
  • Styrofoam is environmentally toxic and assessed as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the EPA. And BPA, used to harden plastics, is a hormone disruptor; it mimics estrogen in the body and has been linked to obesity, anxiety and a brain tumor called a meningioma, among other problems.

As toy manufacturers understand that including potentially toxic chemicals in their products can affect their market share, they’re stepping up. In 2012, Hasbro committed to eliminating PVC from toy and game packaging.  The following year they announced that they had already started phasing out PVC from packaging; BPA was voluntarily eliminated from their products in 2011.

Then there are companies like Green Toys, which was founded in an effort to create sustainably-minded toys that are less toxic for kids and the environment. Green Toys recycles non-toxic plastic into adorable toy sets that are perfect for guilt-free gifting.

For more gift ideas, read Top Eco-Friendly Toy Brands for the Holidays

Happy, healthy holidays!

Feature image courtesy of David Zellaby

By Rachel Sarnoff

Rachel, better known as Mommy Greenest, blogs about healthier living with less judgment. A journalist and the former CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World, Rachel has been interviewed on programs such as "TODAY," "CNN Headline News" and "Good Day LA,". She believes you shouldn't have to be a scientist to make healthy choices, and serves as a resource for information on the topic.