In the last year alone, there have been multiple recalls of toys, children’s jewelry and even character drinking glasses because they contain high levels of cadmium and lead. While most of the lead and cadmium has been found in items manufactured in China, the US itself offers little to no protection against cadmium and other toxins. Toxins, such as lead, which are regulated, have such poor oversight that contamination is frequent.
Other toxins you may have heard about include Bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates and Polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Current governmental regulations offer virtually no protection from these substances . The government generally regards that these compounds as safe as currently used, with complete disregard of voluminous evidence to the contrary. Sears, Kmart, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Toys R’ Us and Apple have announced plans to eliminate or reduce these toxins in products for infants and children. These initiatives will take many years to implement leaving your children unprotected. BPA, PVC and phthalates have been banned from toys in the European Union.
These toxins wreak havoc with children:
LEAD: Even minimal levels of lead are proven to impair cognitive function in children and adults. This has been shown at levels far below what physician’s will tell a parent is “safe”. The still developing brains of children are much more susceptible to damage than the brains of adults. Neurological symptoms of high lead levels include irritability, headaches, inability to concentrate, short term memory loss and difficulty with balance. Lead also affects the GI system and the kidneys, again at levels below what is currently considered toxic. Actual lead poisoning can result in irreversible mental retardation.
CADMIUM: Cadmium is a heavy metal and extremely toxic. In early 2010 it was discovered that China had used Cadmium to replace lead in children’s jewelry and there were many recalls. It was also found in character glasses given out at fast food restaurants.
ABC News reports that cadmium is a known carcinogen, can cause kidney failure and weaken bones. Bruce A. Fowler, a cadmium specialist and toxicologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, “There’s nothing positive that you can say about this metal. It’s a poison.”
BPA: This toxin found in plastic harms the liver, lungs and reproductive systems. Because it mimic hormones, BPA is contributing to childhood obesity and early puberty. BPA has been implicated in the development of breast cancer and infertility in young men. Canada recently banned BPA in baby bottles. In October of 2007, California banned the use of BPA in bottles and toys. BPA is found in the liners of virtually all cans used for canning foods.
Even if PVC were not harmful in and of itself, one byproduct of its manufacture is dioxin, a deadly chemical that was banned years ago. PVC is among the most potent carcinogens (cancer causing agents) known to science. PVC contains stabilizers such as lead, cadmium and phthalates. Over time, these stabilizers leach out and are implicated in asthma, lead poisoning and cancer, yet there are no regulations regarding their use in products for infants and children.
These chemicals are used to make plastic soft and pliable. They can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled as fumes, and ingested when present in food or when children bite or suck on toys. Phthalates are linked to birth defects and can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system, and most notably, developing testes in male fetuses and children.
There are non-toxic alternatives such as organic cotton and natural wood finished with vegetable oils. Don’t forget the toys which kept you happy as children such as pots and pans, wooden spoons and cardboard boxes. If you are buying plastic toys and especially teethers, check labels and look for the recycling symbols. If you must use plastics, the safest choices are: 2 (HDPE), 4 (LDPE) and 5 (PP). At this time, no chemicals are known to leach from these plastics. However, they are still made of petroleum products and produce toxic byproducts during manufacture. #1 (PET) is considered safe for one time use (in water bottles) but has recently been found to leach antimony, especially when exposed to heat.
Some sources for safe toys and examples of what to look for:
TaraLuna Baby Buddy Toy: http://www.taraluna.com
Organic Gift Shop Rollie Animals: http://www.organicgiftshop.com/catalog/html/little-rollie-animals-p-16136.html
Peace Baby Blocks: http://www.oliebollen.com/detail.aspx?ID=3949&cc=go
http://www.make-upusa.com/phthalates.htmHYPERLINK “http://www.make-upusa.com/phthalates.htm”http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2008/02/plastic_toys2.htmlHYPERLINK http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2008/02/plastic_toys2.htmlhttp://www.healthline.com/galecontent/cadmium-poisoningHYPERLINK “http://www.healthline.com/galecontent/cadmium-poisoning”