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  • Environment California, a research and policy center, recently released a report which found that products designed for babies and young children contain chemicals that have been linked to worrisome health problems, including early onset puberty, impaired learning development, reproductive defects, and cancer. 
  • The study tested soft plastic teethers, bath accessories, and other children's toys for phthalates (pronounced THA-LATES). Changing pads, mattresses, and various sleep accessories were tested for toxic flame retardants.  These chemicals were found in most of the baby products examined. 
  • Unfortunately, since manufacturers do not have to label their products as containing phthalates or toxic flame retardants, parents have no way of knowing whether or not a product poses a hidden hazard.
  • Even if a product is labeled "contains phthalates," there is no "safe dose" of these chemicals for kids. Growing evidence indicates that low doses can cause ill effects. Ongoing exposure from multiple sources could become significant.
  • Millions of kids' toys require batteries. While they may not pose an immediate health threat to the child, batteries contain heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium and nickel. The alkaline and button batteries used in most toys are the single largest source of mercury in our trash.
  • Arts and crafts supplies can contain toxic substances that pose health hazards to our kids. A lot of art supplies come in forms that are perfect for sneaking into their bodies: dusts, powders, vapors, gases, and aerosols may be inhaled, accidentally eaten, or absorbed through the skin. These GUIDELINES FOR THE SAFE USE OF ART AND CRAFT MATERIALS , created by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, will help children stay safe as well as creative.

Recommendations for Parents

  • Select toys, baby dishware and sleep aids that are less likely to contain toxic chemicals, like those suggested below.
  • Avoid washing plastic dishware with harsh dishwashing soap and hot water, which may allow chemicals to leach out of the plastic. 
  • Get a copy of Shopper's Guide to Toxic-Free Kids , suggestions from Environment California that will help you make healthy purchases next time you go shopping for your children.
  • Give alternatives to toys, like outings to a favorite park, museum, or children's theater.
    Make your own. Here are easy homemade playdough recipes and fun arts-and-crafts projects.
  • Want to avoid toys that require batteries altogether? Look here for battery-free fun.

For Your Shopping List:

  • Ecomall offers a directory of companies that sell a wide variety of toys and clothes for babies and toddlers made from organic cotton and untreated wood.
  • The Pristine Planet sells wood puzzles, solar-powered robots, and board books from the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy.
  • The Natural Baby Catalog features puzzles, pull toys and more.
  • The Discovery Channel Store has toys, books and amusements for kids and adults alike.
  • Here's a catalogue of arts and craft supplies that minimize indoor air pollution.

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In My House

We don't have babies or toddlers anymore, but our nephews and nieces do. We avoid giving tiny children anything they could end up putting in their mouths - it's just too risky. We do give a lot of books, clothes, experiences and, as the kids get older, books on tape. So far, we haven't been disowned.

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What Else?

Parents have the right to know what chemicals exist in the products they purchase for their children. The state and federal government must help, by ensuring the safety of all products on the market that have been developed for kids. They can do so by requiring manufacturers to label products that contain hazardous materials. Governments should also work to phase out the use of hazardous chemicals in any product a child is likely to come in contact with.

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Your Family links...

A Family Guide
Fun Things to Do
How to Protect Children
Baby Bottles
Lunch Boxes