Toys to Avoid

Toys to Avoid

Playtime is a big part of any child’s life, and every parent wants to be sure that all the toys they buy – from a favorite doll to the rubber ducky in the bathtub – are both fun and safe. To help you chose the right toys for your little ones, we’ve put together a list of the three most dangerous kinds of toys to avoid if you want to keep your kids healthy and happy.

Dangerous Plastics

Traditional plastics are a melting pot of toxic and environmentally damaging chemicals. Not only are they produced from petroleum, but they also frequently contain chemical additives that can leach from the plastic. One of the most dangerous of these is a class of chemicals called phthalates that are used to add flexibility to plastic. Phthalates are mostly found in polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a common plastic used in the construction of a huge number of products, including many children’s toys. The effects of phthalate exposure are still being studied, but they are known to disrupt the endocrine system and in high concentrations can interfere with the development of sexual characteristics, particularly in males.

Children can absorb phthalates when chewing on plastic toys, so help keep your kids safe by avoiding toys made from PVC (plastics marked #3). The use of phthalates in children’s toys has been banned in the E.U. since 1999 and in the U.S. as of 2009, but it is still safest to stay away from any PVC products.


Electronic toys are so common that most of us don’t hesitate to hand kids the latest light-up race car or singing doll. However, in addition to being difficult to dispose of and bad for the environment, batteries are also a hazard for curious tots. Every year around 3,500 occurrences of ingested batteries are reported to poison control centers in the U.S., and the majority of these cases are children who require medical treatment. Injuries include burns, tearing of the digestive tract, and lead poisoning. Especially dangerous are the small, disk-shaped batteries marked #20, which account for 90% of all serious battery injuries. So next time you’re shopping for toys, skip the electronics aisle and instead look for natural, battery-free options.

Toxic Paints

Lead is a well-known toxin: exposure damages the nervous system and causes blood and brain disorders, learning disabilities, and reproductive problems. For decades it was widely used as a pigment in paints, including those used in the manufacturing of toys. Children were then exposed to lead when chewing on toys, by ingesting pain chips, or from inhalation of paint dust. The U.S. banned the use of lead-based paint in 1978, but it can still be found on older toys and on toys produced abroad. In 2007, Mattel and its subsidiary, Fisher-Price, were forced to recall millions of toys that had been manufactured in China using lead-based paints, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission continues to issue smaller recalls for toys with high lead content (you can look on their website at to search for toys recalled because of possible lead hazards). The best way to keep lead-based paints away from your child is to be mindful of the toys you purchase: look for eco-friendly, domestically made products and stay away from older toys unless you’ve had them tested for lead. Also make sure arts and crafts items are lead free: domestically made children’s paints will be non-toxic, but some professional artists paints are still made with lead.


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