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Choosing Safe Toys for Your Children – What to Look For

October 24, 2016

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You might understandably assume that the toys you buy for your children are safe. After all, toy manufacturers are required by federal law to design and produce their products in accordance with strict safety regulations. However, unlike the toys of yesteryear – most of which were fashioned out of wood, metal or fabric – many of today’s toys are made of plastic. Unfortunately, some plastics contain toxins that can have harmful, long-term effects on the human body.

Studies show that some popular plastic toys and toy parts contain high levels of unregulated but potentially dangerous substances like arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, phthalates, chemical flame-retardants, Bisphenol A (BPA), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and heavy metals. Children are particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of these toxins because they often engage in “hand to mouth” activities while playing. This means that they can directly introduce the toxins into their bodies. Additionally, the skin of a child will typically absorb more toxins than the skin of an adult.

Making appropriate toy selections and properly supervising playtime are the best ways to protect children from toy-related injuries. You already know to look for and avoid choking hazards, sharp edges, small parts and the like. But, how can you shield your kids from the hidden toxins in many modern toys? You might be surprised to learn that the more expensive toys are not necessarily safer. The best strategy is to “go back to basics” by choosing safe alternatives to plastic. Here are some ideas:

  • For toddlers, look for wooden blocks and pull toys, metal toys (coated with non-lead-based paint), plush animals that are not treated with chemical flame retardants and rubber toys.
  • For older kids, look for imaginative doll houses and cars made of eco-friendly materials, such as recycled cardboard, organic cotton and wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
  • For children of all ages, consider homemade or vintage toys.

The good news is that things are slowly getting better. New laws are being passed to establish limits on the amounts of potentially unsafe chemicals in products intended for children. In the meantime, though, it’s important to read toy labels very carefully so that you can gain an understanding of exactly what they’re made of. If you’re not sure about a certain toy, leave it on the store shelf.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we want your children to have fun, but we also want them to be safe. Scientists have established a link between the toxins found in some plastics (such as lead) to the development of certain types of cancer. If you have questions about this or any other cancer-related topic, you can arrange to speak with an experienced oncologist at Moffitt by calling 1-888-MOFFITT or completing a new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.