The presence of phthalates in toys is just one of the concerns when it comes to toys and toxic chemicals.

It seems almost beyond belief that plastic toys designed for younger children would include toxic chemicals like phthalates. But they do.

Recent studies suggest that almost 40% of toys include PVC, a soft plastic which contain the chemical phthalates.

How can you tell if PVC is used in the manufacture of any given toy? There is no easy way to know. But a rule of thumb is that if the plastic feels soft or malleable, it’s probably PVC.

Think of that “rubber” duck. It isn’t rubber, it’s PVC.

Think of dolls and action figures that are not made of hard plastics.

Think of all the accessories that come with those dolls and action figures.

And think of the plastic jewelry your children wear while playing.

In addition to the presence of phthalates, many PVCs also contain heavy metals like lead and cadmium, both of which are also highly toxic.

* Phthalates are endocrine disruptors, and can upset normal hormonal balance in our bodies, stimulate the growth and development of cancers (breast, uterine, prostate), impair fertility, and disrupt pregnancy.

* Lead causes damage to the nervous system, leading to decreased learning ability and behavioral deficits. Children are especially susceptible because they absorb and retain lead more easily than adults and also because their brains are still developing.

* Cadmium is known to produce cancer and in animal tests causes kidney damage. It can also affect the developing brain.

Since 1997, bans on phthalates in soft vinyl toys have taken effect in Austria, France, Greece, Mexico, Norway and Sweden. And while some toy manufacturers and retailers are working to get PVC toys off the shelves, PVC is still present in about 40% of toys in North America.

The greatest concern here is that younger children not only handle their toys a great deal, but also chew on them, greatly increasing the chances of exposure to these toxic chemicals.

What can you do?

First, get rid of the older plastic toys in your home, which likely contain the highest levels of toxic chemicals.

Buy toys from major brands, and from well-known stores. Avoid cheap plastic toys from bargain retailers. These are likely to be directly imported from China, and were probably manufactured with almost no control over the chemicals used.

Rediscover the pleasures of old-fashioned wooden toys, preferably unpainted.

You can also find PVC-free toys for babies and younger children at


And if, in particular, you don’t want to deprive your younger children of the pleasure of playing with rubber ducks in the bath, you can also find phthalates-free rubber ducks at


Finally, to find out if a particular brand of toy contains heavy metals or other toxic chemicals, follow the instructions in this short video from

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