Victory! A toxic Toy Story

Feature story - 5 July, 2005
Before now, bad Barbies, toxic Teletubbies and rotten rubber ducks could have been slowly poisoning small children. The very chemicals that made these toys so soft and tempting to teething toddlers have been shown to damage organs in animals. But the European Parliament has banned manufacturers from using six of these toxic chemicals, freeing Europe from many toxic toys for good.

Toxic teletubbies? Po (who has a PVC mouth) will no longer be so poisonous in the EU under new laws banning phlalates from toys.

Back in 1997 we tested a wide range of popular PVC plastic toys, suchas rubber ducks, dolls and baby's teethers and showed that theycontained dangerous chemicals.  We tested more toys in spring2005, and found that Spiderman Flip 'n zip and Mattel's Barbie "FashionFever" contained high levels of harmful phthalates. (Looks like she wassuffering from more than Fashion Fever).

A bitter battle ensued while the chemical and toy industries foughthard to prevent today's decision - but the forces of good have finallywon out.

The case of the toxic toys shows how slow the current process forregulating chemicals is, and the urgent need for a much stronger law.

Europe is the world's largest chemical producer and yet the majority ofchemicals manufactured and used everyday have never been properlytested.  For those that have been tested and found to be toxic, itcan take years for them to be controlled; and even then they can stillsometimes be used in consumer products.  

The EU is currently preparing a new chemicals law called REACH, whichaims to ban or control a wide range of dangerous chemicals used in allEU products. But the chemical industry has already succeeded in gettingmost of the 100,000 chemicals currently in use excluded from the rules. 

We are campaigning for all industries to stop using hazardous chemicalsand to replace them with safer alternatives, a process called'substitution'.

However if you want to be absolutely sure that the toys you buy aresafe, avoid anything containing PVC or vinyl because laws are still nottight enough on these kinds of plastics.

We should be able to trust industry not to produce dangerous chemicalsand manufacturers not to use them. But it seems they won't clean uptheir acts unless we force them to. If you want your Toy Story to havea happy ending, make a difference by shopping wisely and choosingenvironmentally sound products.

More info

Check out the "Chemical Home" for a guide to safer products

More on our current campaign to solve the chemicals crisis.

Tell the EU to clean up its act

Urge the EU Parliament to strengthen chemical laws

Help us win more victories for a toxic-free future

Help us in our ongoing campaign for safer consumer products