Test Results on Toxic Toys Raise Industry Standard

Toys no longer contain dangerous phthalates

How Greenpeace held corporations accountable for chemicals in the toys they sold to trusting parents.

PVC Plastic Toys in China

A child picks up PVC plastic toys at a store. Greenpeace has found high levels of phthalates banned by the E.U. and the U.S. in children’s products and toys made from vinyl plastic (also called polyvinyl chloride, or PVC) on the Chinese market. Phthalates are plastic softeners widely added to PVC materials and are linked to hormone malfunctions and toxicity to the reproductive system. The EU and the US have banned six types of phthalates in children’'s products.

© Yang Di / Greenpeace

What Are Phthalates?

Phthalates are mainly used as plastic softeners. They serve as an additive to PVC products, but don’t bond securely. They seep out into teething baby mouths or get released into the air by natural wear and tear. Scientific studies have found that phthalates can cause hormone malfunctions and deformities in male reproductive organs. They are linked to liver and kidney damage in laboratory rats.

Unborn children and infants are particularly susceptible to phthalate exposure.

PVC products are also very difficult to recycle. Separating heavy metals and other unwanted materials away from PVC is an expensive, time consuming process. These chemicals are, instead, left to build up in the environment where their toxicity intensifies.

Toy Companies Get a Report Card

We traveled to the International Toy Fair in New York City, passing around a Toy Manufacturers Report Card. We wanted to inform parents, educators and consumers about how to make sound choices in purchasing toys for small children. The response from concerned parents was overwhelming. In 2003, we updated the list.

A number of companies improved, phasing out all or most of their toxic chemicals. Some, however, did not improve. Still, this second report card showed the power consumers have over the corporations. When the consumer base chooses with their wallets, people power is evident in real, lasting change.

Bush Signs Legislation

This issue had a large amount of public support, with more than 8,000 people writing their members of Congress. Political traction was being made despite heavy lobbying by ExxonMobil who manufactures phthalates.

In 2008, President Bush signed into law national safety legislation. The new law ensures that toys and childcare products will be free from brain-damaging materials like lead and several types of phthalates. The legislation will cover products made for children up to 12 years of age, ranging from baby-teething toys to Barbie dolls.

The legislation is evidence that real, lasting change can be made by a motivated public, all it took was some concern for the welfare of our children channeled in the form of a grassroots campaign. Now, toy companies everywhere are learning that a cheap manufacturing process using toxic chemicals is not what an informed public wants.

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