Are your Holiday Toys Toxic?
The word “toxic” is thrown around a lot these days. But what actually makes a substance or product toxic?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies several chemicals that cause harmful effects when they enter the body.1 Some of these chemicals are only harmful in large amounts, while others are unsafe at even small amounts of exposure.
Although the U.S. government regulates the levels of certain toxic chemicals in consumer products, each year brings new alarming studies and recalls. This means it can be difficult to know whether the toys you purchase contain toxic chemicals.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has taken steps to limit chemicals in toys, and recalls have been fewer in recent years (since the passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in 2008).
Here are some certifiably toxic chemicals that can find their way into our homes:
Ingesting high levels of arsenic causes serious harm and can even lead to cancer or death.2 The chemical is highly regulated, but some studies have found low levels of arsenic in some toys and consumer products.
Used to make products resistant to flame, bromine has been linked to birth defects and reproductive damage.3 Bromine use is limited, but some toys have been recalled for containing unsafe levels of the chemical.
This is a very harmful chemical that is found in some paint, gasoline, and consumer products.4 Fortunately, lead levels are highly monitored, and lead poisoning is preventable by avoiding or discarding any products containing the chemical.
Toxic to the nervous system, mercury is especially dangerous for children.5 Some toys have been recalled for unsafe mercury levels, so it’s important to read about safety recalls when buying toys.
This is a group of chemicals that are used to make certain types of plastics such as adhesives, clothing, and some children’s toys. According to the CDC, the effects on humans from phthalates are unknown, but some studies have shown them to affect animals’ reproductive systems.
The good news is that most products are safe because companies avoid using toxic chemicals and governments regulate them. But watching for recalls and disposing of potentially harmful products are excellent ways to keep your holidays toxic free. And you can help out—report unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to the Consumer Product Safety Commission at saferproducts.gov.
If you have tips or tricks to share about this topic, we'd love to hear your feedback in the comments section.
- Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. “ATSDR Toxic Substances Portal.” www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/index.asp. Web. May 23, 2014.
- Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. “Arsenic.” www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=3. Web. 3 March, 2011.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Facts about Bromine." emergency.cdc.gov/agent/bromine/basics/facts.asp. Web. 14 February, 2013
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Lead.” www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/parents.htm. Web. 8 December, 2015.
- Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. “Mercury” www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=24. Web. 3 March, 2011.
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