The Importance of Chemical-Free Toys and Where to Buy Them

Aug, 09, 2017

In past years, there have been many toy recalls because of high amounts of chemicals and heavy metals found in them. Sadly, there are very few guidelines or regulations regarding chemicals in toys in the U.S. However, the good news is that, thanks to recalls, more attention has been brought to toys and the demands for more regulations both in the U.S. and the EU. As parents, it is up to us to keep our children safe from dangerous toxic chemicals.

First, as a mom of three who also try live an eco-friendly and chemical free life, my rule of thumb is to avoid plastic toys for kids at all cost. It’s also almost impossible to know which plastics are “safe” and which are not. Unfortunately, many toys are made from plastic due to its durability; and most plastic contains phthalates and/or Bisphenol-A (BPA), both of which have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption and developmental problems in children.

Lead is another chemical I worry about in toys. Many painted toys may contain lead and other heavy metals, which have been linked to serious impairments in babies and in children’s developing brains. Yeah, you see the problem: toys may not be as innocent and safe as we parents would hope.

My tips for buying safe kids’ toys are these:

  • Buy toys made with solid woods, wool, organic cotton and stainless steel; and toys painted with water-based or nontoxic paints.
  • Favor non-battery operated toys because, not only is it better for the planet, but also because the batteries are loaded with toxins.

Favor high quality toys. As much as it pains me to say so, toys made with better and safer materials tend to be more expensive. The good news is that they also tend to last longer. Here is a list of great eco- and chemical-safe toy sellers:

It angers me that today, with the availability of research proving how dangerous toxic chemicals are to humans — more importantly, to children — there still are toxic chemicals used in children’s everyday products. If we take a moment to think about how much our little ones handle and mouth their toys, it only makes sense to avoid all toys containing chemicals and to take that extra time to know what’s in the toys given to your kids.

Used Toys

Buying gifts at thrift stores, consignment shops, rummage sales and online marketplaces like EBay or Craigslist can be a great way to find good deals without breaking the bank. However, you need to be especially careful when buying things from these outlets to make sure the gifts you purchase are safe. Here are some things to keep in mind:

 • Avoid buying secondhand baby furniture or equipment, as safety standardsfor these items have changed significantly in recent years.

• Helmets and safety pads are good to wear when biking, skating or doing similar activities  but they probably should be bought new rather than used.
• Look for chips, dents, cracks and other signs of wear that could pose a safety hazard.
• Check to see if there are any missing parts that could compromise the item’s safety.
• Search to see if there are any recalls or alerts on the items.

 In most cases, there’s nothing wrong with buying something secondhand. Just remember to give whatever you buy a good wash when you get home.

For more writing about finding safe kids’ toys check these out:




Fredrika Syren

Fredrika Syren is an environmental activist and writer. In 2016, she founded the website Green-Mom.com where she shared her family’s journey of living zero waste. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband James and their children Bella, Noah, and Liam. Fredrika and her family were recently featured in the documentary Zero Time to Waste. Fredrika is also the author of Zero Waste for Families - A Practical Guidebook (which you can buy on this site)

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