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Phthalates: Poison in Children’s Toys

Updated on October 16, 2018
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Fredda Branyon has dedicated her life to the advancement of complementary medicine.

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Phthalates: Poison in Children’s Toys

Are you guilty of showering your baby with new toys, even when he or she already has a chest full? No one blames you! It takes a lot of willpower to say no to glimmering, innocent eyes begging for something new to chew, bite, and play with. But here is where you need to put your foot down. Most plastic toys, such as building blocks and some action figures, contain chemicals that are neither safe for children nor the environment. According to a 2015 study, exposure to these toxic substances can damage the lungs, liver, nervous system, and reproductive organs.


What toxic chemicals are in plastic toys?

Phthalates (“thah-lates”) are widespread chemical plasticizers from the 1950s. They help soften plastics that would otherwise crack and brittle when bent. What makes phthalates so dangerous is its inability to bind to the plastics they are added to, resulting in continuous leakage to the environment. If you ever wondered why some plastics harden over time, it is because its phthalates content has leached out.

Aside from toys, phthalates are a key ingredient in many products. The chemical helps some lotions, moisturizers, and other cream products penetrate and soften the skin. Phthalates are also present in perfumes, lubricating oils, electronic devices, pesticides, car-care products, and several household products, including plastic wraps, food containers, shower curtains, furniture, wallpapers, and other items made of PVC or vinyl — all of which a child may get his or her hands on without proper care and supervision.


How do plasticizers enter the body?

Plasticizers are everywhere around us. Although adults are susceptible to phthalate poisoning, children are more vulnerable because of their hand-to-mouth behaviors and developing bodies.

To be specific, a child’s risk for phthalate exposure increases through:


  • Ingestion. When a toddler nibbles on an object that contains plasticizers, or touches a plastic toy and then puts his or her fingers in the mouth, the chemicals can end up in the child’s body.


  • Inhalation. Fumes from products containing vinyl, including some diaper-changing mats, contain phthalates the body can inhale. Phthalates are also a major concern for adults, particularly in pregnant women. These toxic chemicals, when inhaled, can taint the placenta and reduce fetal growth. Phthalates can likewise contaminate breast milk, so it is crucial for parents to learn how to limit an expectant mother’s exposure.


  • Skin contact. Some baby lotions, powders, and colognes contain toxic substances that can be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream.

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How can parents prevent exposure to phthalates?

Even the tiniest amount of phthalates exposure can impact a child’s ability to reach his or her full potential. Fortunately, parents and guardians have access to several U.S. companies that produce high-quality playthings from wood, metal, vegan leather, and other natural, non-toxic, eco-friendly materials. These toys often last for generations and can become treasured family heirlooms.


In addition, parents should be proactive in removing potentially harmful objects from their baby’s reach. To further eliminate concerns about your child’s favorite toys and teething items, it is best make purchases from U.S. manufacturers and check the Consumer Products Safety Commission’s list of recalled items.

© 2018 Fredda Branyon

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