The topic of toys and plastics is always a contentious one, more so when babies are involved. As a parent, you ought to be always on the lookout for your child’s safety. It is normal to get worried when the baby chews on a softball or even a teether.
You may have also stumbled upon reports or articles which cast doubts about the safety of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) toys. Even though there are other sources which affirm that these toys are indeed safe, it can still be confusing as you are left wondering about what to believe or not believe. So, are toys made of PVC safe? That is what this comprehnsive article is all about.
Thankfully, more agencies are being set up to ensure that no toxic baby products find their way into the consumer market, including toys. Despite all these efforts, you also need to be in the know of any potential poisonous toys in your collection.
After spending days scouring the web and talking to various toy experts, I have put down this post to highlight for you my findings. I hope this helps you know whether toys made of PVC are safe or not.
What is PVC?
Among the world’s plastics, PVC is one of the most used and researched about. Its use has been in existence for centuries now. I don’t think there is any house that does not have an item made from PVC. Water pipes, shower curtains are food packages are just some of the things made from PVC.
This plastic has an approval to be used in the healthcare sector as medical tubing. Because of its versatility, when in the rigid form, it is used to make profile items such as windows and doors, bottles, sewage pipes and membership or bank cards.
When softened using plasticizers, PVC finds use in plumbing, imitation leather, and insulation for electrical wires and cables. However, it is the use of this softened form that causes uproar when it is used to make toys.
The PVC Safety Debate
This safety debate is one that has raged on for decades, with each side of the divide pulling strings on its side. Consumers and activists have been at the forefront of the debate that PVC is indeed harmful to children, and are seeking for the complete eradication of this type of plastic.
The primary concern is that since toddlers do not always resist the urge to put toys into their mouths, then any toxic substance present would enter their system. In a 1998 petition to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), an activist group wanted clarification on the safety of these toys.
In response, CPSC stated that the raised allegation was false. However, they suggested that manufacturers reduce the proportion of phthalates in PVC used to make toys that children put in their mouths. In the following specifications, the use of the phthalate plasticizer was banned in teethers and rattles.
Because of this debate and resistance from activists, environmentalists and consumers alike, some manufacturers are taking steps to avert a potential backlash. Toy giants such as Toys “R” Us are putting in new policies to phase out PVC toys with time. This is in addition to conforming to more modern standards set by CSPC.
Are PVC Toys Safe?
Now to the actual question at hand. While responding to the numerous campaigns waged against toys made from PVC, the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI) published a report to assure their consumers.
In response, ICTI rubbishes these claims as unfounded and lack any scientific backing. In the report, it gives an assurance that these toys are safe for use by any person of any age. The report further states that the phthalates found in PVC are non-toxic.
Based on scientific tests and research, the chemicals used to make toys are safe. No satisfactory evidence shows any need for an alarm. However, this answer is not a convincing one when compared to the vicious anti-PVC campaigns.
In addition to the lack of scientific evidence, there are also scientific agencies responsible for the regulation on toys. The reason for the existence of these toys is that after conducting tests, the results show that typical exposure levels aren’t dangerous.
Moreover, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted studies and found that phthalates were indeed present in the volunteers. However, these levels were deficient to warrant any regulatory concerns.
Further on, tests done also indicate that the levels present in individuals did not cause any known health complications. The only substantive effects were on laboratory animals, but none on humans, or children for that matter.
To alleviate any consumer concerns, government agencies are putting in policies to create mandatory third-party testing of PVC toys. It is only in this way that it is possible to assure parents of the safety of vinyl toys.
What Are Your Options?
In as much as there is no convincing evidence of the health effects of phthalates contained in PVC toys, most of the parents are still not convinced. Just like me, I always do not like taking chances with my children’s health conditions.
The perfect news is that there are available options for your toys apart from PVC that you can buy. They may be more expensive since vinyl is always cheap to make. The options involve the use of biodegradable and eco-friendly materials.
You can buy toys made from natural materials like latex, textiles or eco-friendly plastics such Polypropylene and polyethylene. Nestingdolls.co indicates that wooden and bamboo toys are another great option since they do not contain any chemical additives and are, therefore, considered to be safe.
The list does not end there. There are thermoplastic elastomers and Ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). These alternatives may contain certain additives present in PVC toys but are less contentious than the use of PVC.
Other manufacturers are also exploring the use of Polyvinyl Alcohol in the making of toys as an alternative to plastics. This raw material is biodegradable and, therefore, less destructive to the environment. The problem is that you will have to pay more to enjoy its benefits.
To ascertain that indeed what you are buying does not contain any PVC, always check for a “PVC-free” label on the toy. In case the name isn’t there, check for the numeric 1, 2 and 4 on the plastic toys.
What to Always Avoid
Now, PVC has not been proved to result in any health effects. This notwithstanding, certain chemicals are more potent to a little one’s health. Here are the substances that you need to be more aware wary of.
Perhaps the most potent of the substances, lead has led to the recalling of some playthings by CPSC because of exceeding the provided lead limits. Lead poisoning is a severe health risk, particularly for babies. As a way of mitigating the risks, Congress passed laws banning the use of lead on toys.
2. BPA (Bisphenol A)
It’s a chemical substance which leads to detrimental side effects. Attention disorders, obesity, cancer cell growth and early onset of puberty are some of the risks.
Are Toys made of PVC safe? Yes and No. It is hard to tell as there are no scientific tests that either confirm or deny the presence of health effects associated with the use of PVC in toys. All that is present is an unending counter accusation between the proponents and opponents of PVC.