The world is a new place to small children and babies and from the beginning itself they get on with their exploration job. They make full use of all the five sensory organs to get a perspective about the world. Hearing, seeing, touching things are ok, but the little geniuses want to learn the taste of everything they come across and vigilant parents try to keep things of harm away from them. But, do adults really know that all the things they allow can really be more unsafe than the things they snatch away. This is not fiction, but a grave truth.
Big hazards of small toys:
- Fire Hazard: This can happen in battery operated toys. Even the electronic circuits pose the risk of fire or in milder cases of gentle electric shocks.
- Choking Hazard: Small children under the age of 3 can swallow small parts, which can cause choking.
- Laceration Hazard: Sharp cuts can happen due to sharp edges of the toys
- Ingestion Hazard: The magnets used in toys, when swallowed can cause severe damage to intestinal walls and digestive tissues.
- Toxic Hazard: Presence of lead in the toys is the most common toxin in toys. This is closely followed by phthalates. Benign looking chromium plating is again a very toxic substance and can even cause cancer.
Though any kind of hazard is unsafe for small children, but other than toxic toys, other kinds of hazards can be avoided by physically examining the things. Invisible and in many cases irreversible, toxicity of toys makes it most dreaded hazard.
The markets are flooded with toys that are of made of highly toxic elements. One of the most toxic elements found in children toys are bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. These substances are used for the manufacturing of soft vinyl products such as bath toys and teething rings. Unsuspecting parents buy these to give pleasure to their children, but rather end up slowly poisoning them India-based Centre for Science and Environment conducted a study in 2010 and found 20 different type of Phthalates, of which 6 are highly toxic and are unsafe for children. Phthalates in various studies is found to increase skeletal retardation and malformations, cause severe allergies, asthma, and can even cause premature breast development in small children.
According to the US Public Interest Research Group, Chromium, plating done on the objects to render them a metal-like look, is a highly toxic substance that can even cause cancer. Another highly toxic substances that is commonly found in the toys is lead. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), any amount of lead in a child’s blood is dangerous as it affects their development. Its effects are irreversible. Lead is found in many things, such as paints, plastic and
- The European Union has banned the use of these additives from children’s products. BPA is a banned substance in Canada and France. These countries neither allow production of such toys nor do they permit import.
- In the US, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 enforces a strict limit on the phthalates, lead and other heavy metals. California is the first US state that has imposed a ban on toxic toys. However, the country in whole doesn’t have any fixed regulation regarding the chemistry of the plastic intended for small children.
- In the US and Europe manufacturers face stringent laws or parameters for manufacturing a toy and if any company fails to qualify on that ground, they are ordered to recall every single unit from the market.
- India is challenged by lack of similar rigid laws that protect the interest of the little gullible customers. The country has some feeble law to monitor the mechanical and chemical properties and presence of certain heavy metals in the toys; however, the choice to not add any harmful additives is left to the conscious of the manufacturers.
Recommendations for parents:
- Avoid soft plastic toys when possible
- Check plastic toys carefully and avoid those that are #3 or PVC identification or are labeled as “vinyl”
- Always opt for products labeled “phthalate free”, “Lead free”
- Use teethers made of natural products, like unpolished wood, natural rubber, organic cotton knit teethers
- Before buying any toy (particularly online) just check on the internet if it had been recalled by the manufacturers, as manufacturers tend to push their hazardous products to such countries where there are no laws to check their safety quotient. The toys manufacturers take benefits of loopholes in the legal orders and try to push their toxic toys into the market.
The need of the hour is to design more stringent regulations that ensure full coverage of the current gaps. Further, the manufacturers should be asked to completely disclose every ingredient that goes into making of the product.
- “Phthalates in Toys”, Centre for Science and Environment, January 2010
- “Trouble in Toyland”,The 29th Annual Survey of Toy Safety, US Public Interest Research Group
- Lead, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)