June 5, 2020

Christmas 2013: How to choose healthy and eco-friendly toys for your children?

Lead, mercury, phthalates, formaldehyde ... toys contain a multitude of chemical substances well known for their harmful effects on health. More vulnerable, our children are the first to be exposed, especially when they are mouthing them. Following recent recalls of some products, what should we think about toys ? What are the health risks for children? How to choose toys healthier? Decryption.


What are the main pollutants?

The main pollutants are phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), formaldehyde, flame retardants, formamide and heavy metals. Phthalates are present in the toys in plastic. They are used during manufacturing to make them more flexible and easier to shape. Bisphenol A has been banned in the manufacture of baby bottles since March 2011, however it is still found in toys plastic, including dolls. Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound often found in toys wooden (puzzles, building games, doll houses ...). Very volatile gas, it can come into contact with the eyes or nose and cause allergic reactions. Flame retardants are chemicals added during manufacture to improve the fire resistance of products. We find them in some toys, especially in soft toys, comforters and toys electronic and battery operated. Present in foam puzzles intended for children under 3 years of age, formamide has been listed since 2012 on the list of substances of very high concern for the European Union's authorization procedure. Heavy metals are toxic compounds used in the manufacture of felts, paints, modeling pastes but also in toys wooden and children's jewelry.


What are the health risks for children?

Elisabteh Ruffinengo is Advocacy Officer for the Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) toys.

"Chemical substances, except in large quantities, which is rarer in developed countries than in Eastern countries, where toys are less controlled, do not risk poisoning children. In contrast, small doses are present in some products. Accumulated, they can have more or less serious consequences. This is called hormonal disruption, allergies, skin reactions and in some cases, cancers in adulthood.


To limit the risks to health, just adopt the right reflexes!

- Prefer natural fiber or organic products
- Wash the product or leave it in the open 48 hours before use
- Avoid advertising gifts
- Choose from toys unvarnished raw wood and decorated with non-toxic paints
- Choose from toys marked "PVC-free" or "phthalate-free"
- To reduce the risk of allergies, do not buy toys perfumed
- Prefer products with food coloring

The labels to know

When choosing a toy, it is very important to refer to the CE label. However, it is important to know that the CE label does not guarantee any control of toxic substances in toys. It is therefore recommended, in addition to CE marking, to rely on the following eco-labels:

- The main labels that guarantee the safety and use of the toys are the German GS (German Safety and Ergonomics Standards) labels, SpielGut (German label guaranteeing that the toy has been tested and evaluated by specialists), Oko-Test Magazin (German monthly comparison of products for consumers based on health and environmental aspects), the Confiance Textile and Oeko-tex 100 and 1000 labels (Global leaders of health labels in textiles), and the NF mark "Early childhood" (Indicates that the product meets the safety requirements defined by the regulations but also that it meets specifically established quality criteria).

- The labels guaranteeing a better ecological impact of the toys are the FSC certificate (sustainably managed forests), the PEFC (sustainable forest management) certification program, NF Environnement (French Ecolabel for products complying with a list of environmental criteria), and the Blue Angel (German Ecolabel based on criteria strict and recognized environmental aspects).

Holiday Gifts from Pottery Barn Kids (June 2020)