Thursday, November 6, 2014

Play. Taste. Smell. Why You Should Make Your Own Play Dough (plus its easy!)

After an extended summer hiatus:  some big changes to Non-Toxic Munchkin!  

First of all:  we moved!   About a month ago we packed up and moved cross country to Los Angeles (specifically, Santa Monica).  We are loving our new home and are excited to see Non-Toxic Munchkin expand as we start our home consultations locally ( read more on home consultations!). 

As we settle in, the posts might be a bit spread out but soon enough we will be back to our weekly posts - promise.

In the meantime here is a super easy (and I mean SUPER EASY:  much easier than gettig the kids in the car and driving to the store !)  recipe for homemade, all natural, play dough.   


Play dough.  Every child loves it.  Few things capture the attention of toddlers and young children, while stimulating their senses and creativity, like play dough does.  Have you ever wondered what its made of?

Most companys guard their playdough recipes, however the patent for Hasbro’s ‘starch based modelling compound’ (ie: playdoh) does mention, in general terms, the ingredients used.  The good news is that most ingredients are harmless ( salt, flour, water and oil). However, there are a couple of ingredients that, although used in very small amounts, are pretty bad.

According to Patent US6713624, the preservative used (which, is specified, makes up 1% of the recipe) “ can be selected from calcium propionate, sodium benzoate, methyl paraben, ethyl paraben, butyl paraben, and borax.”  Fragrance are also used in small amounts.  

Let's start with parabens.  Parabens are common preservatives, that avoid the growth of bacteria, yeast and mold, found in most beauty products.  Studies have found the presence of paraben esters in 99 percent of breast cancer tissues sampled. They are endocrine disruptors that imitate estrogen.  Butylparaben is banned in Denmark. 

Borax:  this is a salt of boric acid.  It is used as an antifungal in playdoh.  Borax can be used in homemade cleaning products, yet it is Borax is banned in the U.S. as a food additive.  Many people say that Boric Acid is safe, since it is actually found -naturally- in many fruits.  However:  fruits go moldy pretty quickly.  Play doh does not.  Thus, I suspect that the amounts of this chemical used in playdoh are probably higher than those found in nature.  Constant exposure to boric acid can cause sexual development problems, infertility and liver or kidney damage.  

Fragrance.  Play dough you make at home smells like nothing.  Playdough you buy in the store has a distinct smell.  That is the added fragrance,  Now a days, you can also find all sorts of artifically smelling playdoughs too.   The chemical that binds the fragrance to the dough are pthlalates.   Phthalates .  These are bad.  They have been linked to : infertility, decreased sperm count, undescended testes, malformation of the penis

Overall, considering the ingredients and the percentage of the potentially toxic ingredients used, playdoh is not THAT bad.  I feel comfortable letting my 4 year old play with store bought playdoh on ocasion ( as long as it is not the 'special smelling' type).   However, with younger children who enjoy eating it I dont feel as comfortable....


Does this sound familiar?:
My 17 month old munchkin LOVES playing and exploring through art..... it is the only activity that will capture his attention for 20 -30 minutes straight.   Lately, with the move and all, I have been -admittedly- lax on what art supplies I have available at home.   Case in point:  two days ago I caught him playing and TASTING my older son’s Playdoh that he received Trick or Treating.   Natural and non-toxic?  Nope.   I suspect it was bought at a Dollar Store or party store.  

Last week? In a split second little munchkin decided to grab my older munchkin’s paint brush (with black tempra paint) and take a taste.

The reality is that although lots of play dough’s say they are for ages 3+, most younger toddlers love playing and, yes, tasting it.  It is actually a great learning tool for them, and they SHOULD be allowed to explore and even taste it, since that is how a lot of toddlers learn.  So why be stressed about certain ingredients in play dough? 

There are non-toxic play dough options available for purchase, but, making your own play dough is not only quicker than driving to the store, it is cheaper and a (super easy) activity in itself. Plus, most people have all the ingredients in their kitchens!

Here is today’s recipe


2 cup white flour
1 cup salt
2 cups water
2 tablespoon creme of tartar
1 tablespoon oil
food coloring (or herbs like tumeric for orange color or mustard powder for yellow) 

Mix all ingredients in a pan and mix well as you cook over medium heat.  The dough will clump up and become really difficult to stir.  Turn off heat and when it has cooled off enough to handle, continue kneading by hand until smooth.  Store in an airtight container or ziplock bag. has another interesting play dough recipe for salt free edible peanut butter play dough.  I have yet to try it but it looks interesting (but very goey?)

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup icing sugar
1 cup flour

Add these three ingredients and slowly add hot water while you work into a dough.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Non-Toxic Car Seats: A Much Needed New Study

By far, the post that I have written that has resonated the most, that has been read the most and commented on the most are the two associated with choosing a non-toxic car seat.   Clearly, exposing our kids to chemicals like brominated flame retardants on a daily basis, chemicals that have been beyond proven harmful to our children, is something that many parents are whilling to go to lengths to avoid.

One of the biggest frustrations by parents (including myself) looking to buy a new non-toxic car seat is finding companies, which have pledged to remove chemicals from their car seats, who have either not made any changes or have replaced toxic chemicals with new, but just as toxic, chemicals.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Non-Toxic Gifts for the Baby/Toddler in Your Life

My youngest munchkin turned one last week.  In his honor, this week I am featuring a list of great non-toxic and super fun toy and gift options for the one year old in your life! Happy birthday Federico!

For a guide on what to look out for and how to purchase safe toys please read our blog post How To Choose The Safest Toys For Your Munchkin :  What Chemicals To Look Out For And How to Identify Them


cityBLOCKS Stacking Blocks

These brightly colored and beautifully illustrated blocks are great for kids 1 - 4+ Both my boys love playing with them.
Their large surface area and light weight makes them ideal for the littlest munchkins who are still learning the art of stacking

Skip Hop Alphabet Zoo ABC House Blocks

These wooden blocks are chunky but light weight and, thus, easy to grip for one year olds.  Another toy that will be around for years.

Melissa and Doug Unit Blog Cart
My son loves to put these in his mouth - I mean to build big towers!  They are on the smallish side for little hands to stack but the colors are great as are the shapes and the little cart can be pulled around the house.   Like I said, right now they are either in his mouth or being carted around the house, but eventually they will be great for building!
(Ikea has a very similar model available too!)

My son took his first steps at 9 months (probably inspired by his energetic older brother!) so by the time he turned one this week he was a walking 'pro' and LOVES pulling and pushing toys around.  Even if your munchkin has yet to take his/her first steps.... it will be a matter of time before they do so these toys are always a good bet.  Here are some options:

Sevi Mini Pull Along Toys

I had actually never heard of this brand, but I now love them.  Sevi is the oldest (1831!) wooden European toy company; their toys are designed in Italy.  Their toys are adorable (my sister in law gave my son the zebra pictured), they use non-toxic vegetable based paints and finishes on their wood.

Orange Tree Toys Lion Push Along

Before receiving this as a gift, my little one was walking around 'pushing' his older brothers play hockey sticks.  Now, he loves walking around with this little lion (they have cows, ladybugs, dinosaurs and some other models available as well!)  As with all the other toys in this list, there are numerous push toy options to choose from just make sure they use no-toxic paint and, ideally, are made in the US, Canada or Europe.

This is a company which I love.  Their toys are spectacularly designed and made using environmentally responsible and safe methods.  I love Plan Toys and my boys love them too.

These are usually great gift ideas and great for imaginative play.   When choosing a doll for your baby girl avoid plastic dolls (if the toy smells like plastic it is not a healthy option) clothes dolls are ideal for this age group

These might not be organic, but they are cottom made and, I think, adorable.   Easy to clean and ideal for babies with allergies.

Handmade in Europe and super soft they are small (8 inches) and ideal for little hands.  

My oldest never used a lovie blanket buy my youngest loves his so much he carries it around the house with it in his mouth ("like a lion carrying his cubs around " is what my husband says...)  MiYim makes soft organic ones in various animal models.  

How to Choose the Safest Toys for Your Munchkin: What Chemicals To Look Out For And How to Identify Them

In the US, toys are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Comission (CPSC).  They enforce basic federal standards that include sharp points or edges, small parts that children could swallow, and lead in paint. Unfortunately,however, toys are not tested for safety before they are put on toy shelves for sale. The CPSC works in a reactive way, and toys are only recalled when complaints are filed. 

What does this mean for parents?  Once again, it is up to us to use a critical eye when purchasing toys for our kids.  

Here are some easy to follow guidelines and what you want to avoid regarding chemicals in toys.


Lead is a known neurotoxin  which, when ingested, can cause nerve damage, learning and behavioral problems, reproductive damage and irreversible brain damage.  It was banned in US house paint in 1978 but it is still commomnly used in paint overseas- including paint used in toys.  

The use of lead in plastics has not been banned. According to the CDC "Lead softens the plastic and makes it more flexible so that it can go back to its original shape. When the plastic is exposed to substances such as sunlight, air, and detergents the chemical bond between the lead and plastics breaks down and forms dust"  thus exposing your child.

How to avoid lead in those much beloved wooden toys and other painted toys?

  • choose natural wood toys, not painted
  • Imported painted toys tend to have a higher risk of lead exposure since regulations in certain countries are quite lax.  Choose toys made in the US, Canada, or the EU. 
  • Avoid ALL old (pre 1978) toys with flaking paint, in particular. 
  • Be cautious with cheap children’s jewelry.   A 2006 study by Ashland University researchers found that 70 percent of the 20 cheap toy jewelry samples they tested contained illegal levels of lead, only three of which have been subsequently recalled.
PVC and Phthlalates

PVC or vinyl (#3 in the recycle triangle) is a soft flexible plastic.  Phthalates are chemicals found in soft plastics (they leach out of PVC products) and are also used to add fragrance to products.  Basically anything that smells artifically has phthalates and most soft plastic toys (including teethers) do too.  Why should you avoid this?  Phthlalates are  known endocrine (hormone) disruptor associated with liver and kidney lesions, a higher risk of certain cancers, and may exacerbate asthma and allergies in children.

  • avoid soft plastic toys.  If it smells like plastic its bad for you.  Choose soft toys made out of organic fabric or natural rubber or even silicon in a better option
  • IKEA and some other major retailers have phased out PVC... 
  • Books are usually a great gift option, but try to avoid plastic books made for water or photos since those soft plastic pages have phthalates.  
  • For girls who like dolls, avoid dolls and plastic purses (let your nose be the guide.  If it smells like plastic it is bad

BPA is a chemical used to make hard mostly transparent plastics.  BPA in the US is now illegal in BABY products made for eating (bottles, pacifiers), however the alternative chemicals being used have not been tested for safety, so when a product or even a toy says "BPA free"  you should remain cautious.

BPA is a especially dangerous endocrine disruptor since even small amounts of this chemical have been shown to cause serious reproductive damage, especially when the exposure occurs in utero. Exposure may cause prostate cancer, breast cancer, female infertility, and obesity.

  • once again, avoid plastic toys when possible.   Even when they say 'BPA free"
  • As your child grows, you will find it is close to impossible to avoid plastic toys alltogether.  At this point just remain vigilant and throw the toy out when it becomes worn or when the clear plastic becomes cloudy
  • aviod placing plastic toys in the sun 
  • if your child is placing a plastic toy in his/her mouth try to hand over a safer less toxic option

There are other chemicals you should watch out for including cadmium (commonly found in children's jewelry, toys with batteries and paint cottings) arsenic and bromine.

For a list of some of our favorite toys read our post Non-Toxic Gifts for one- year-olds

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Polluting Our Unborn Babies One Beauty Product At a Time

Lately I have been talking a lot about how important it is to really make an effort and reduce your exposure to chemicals when pregnant.  Think about it; in the +/-40 weeks that a baby is inside of you it goes from 2 cells to a full human baby..... it is complex and amazing to see how quickly a fetus develops:  FROM TWO CELLS TO A HUMAN BABY!  However, the reality is that exposure to any one toxic chemical during this time of rapid and essential development  can have a big impact on your baby- so what can happen to a baby when it is exposed to over  200 chemicals (286 chemicals is the average number of chemicals found in newborn cord blood) ?

Sometimes the results of exposure are seen immediately at birth or during early childhood (ie:  increases in undescended testicles, increases in autism and behavioral disorders etc), and sometimes the impacts aren't seen until decades later (breast cancer, among other diseases).

How is is that babies are being born, essentially,  polluted? Unfortunately, and to the horror of most mothers,  it's really the mom's fault.  Every product that a pregnant woman uses on her body, everything that a pregnant woman eats, every breathe that a pregnant woman takes exposes her baby to both good and bad things.

To better understand what this means, Healthy Child Healthy World developed an infographic that shows how many mother-to-be's are exposing their unborn babies to dangerous chemicals through their beauty routines, and how easy it is to make small changes in our routines to protect our babies... like we always say at Non-Toxic Munchkin:  the key is to make small easy changes that will slowly become part of our life! (if you have trouble reading the fine print click on this Healthy Child Healthy World link).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

17 Everyday Chemicals Linked to Breast Cancer and How To Avoid Them

Breast Cancer.  Just about everyone I know knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer; in fact it is leading cause of death in women from their late 30s to their early 50s.  Not only are more than 200,000 women diagnosed in the US each year, but it is being diagnosed in younger and younger women.  If you are a woman or have daughters, breast cancer prevention should be a priority.

Most doctors will agree that an increase in such little time cannot be due solely to genetic factors (and breast cancer cases linked to the ‘breast cancer gene” account for only 5-10% of all cases)... so what is causing breast cancer?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Organic vs conventional: EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce

Everyone always asks if I buy only organic produce.  The answer?  No! Not all fruits and vegetables are treated with the high levels of harmful pesticides, and thus, not all fruits and vegetables expose us to these harmful chemicals. 

Buying organic is so expensive that it really saves to have a clear idea of what fruits and veggies you should buy organic and which ones you can buy conventional.   This is why the Environmental Working Group’s yearly Shopper's Guide to Pesticides is so useful.  EWG  ranks pesticide contamination on 48 popular fruits and vegetables, based on their analysis of more than 32,000 samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal Food and Drug Administration.


Pesticides are a collective term for chemicals intended to kill unwanted insects, plants, molds, and rodents.  

The main way by which children encounter pesticides is through food.

Although the current levels of pesticide residue found in individual fruits and vegetables have been deemed safe by the EPA, the question still remains about the cumulative effects (ie:  my 4 year old son can eat an entire package of blueberries in a sitting and could eat a package a day), especially on young children and unborn babies being exposed through their mother’s diets.

According to the EPA ”Pesticides may harm a developing child by blocking the absorption of important food nutrients necessary for normal healthy growth. Another way pesticides may cause harm is if a child's excretory system is not fully developed, the body may not fully remove pesticides. Also, there are "critical periods" in human development when exposure to a toxin can permanently alter the way an individual's biological system operates.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics adds that “Epidemiologic evidence demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems (like ADHD, among others)”

To be clear: the benefits that come from eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweighs the potential risks of ingesting pesticides through them.  Organic fruits and vegetables do not have more nutrients than non organic produce- however if you can avoid exposing your family to bug and weed killers on a daily basis choose the organic version of the produce listed in the ‘Dirty Dozen’.  Stick to organic apples and strawberries (and the other dirty dozen) at home and you wont have to stress when your child eats a conventional apple at school.   


For the last couple of years apples have reigned as the ‘dirtiest’ (ie with highest pesticide residue) of all produce. Here is the list of the top 20 ‘dirtiest’  fruits and vegetables.   You can read the Full list at The Environmental Working Group’s website (which is an amazing website you should check out if anyway if you are interested in non-toxic living)

  1. Apple
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet bell pepers
  8. Nectarines (imported)
  9. Cucumber
  10. Cherry Tomatoes
  11. Snap peas
  12. Potatoes
  13. Hot peppers
  14. Blueberries (domestic)
  15. Lettuce
  16. Kale
  17. Plums
  18. Cherries
  19. Nectarines (domestic)
  20. Pears


The produce that was found to have the least amount of pesticide residue? Avocados!  So no need to spend $2.50 per organic avocado (that is what they cost at my local Whole Foods! Same goes for mangoes which carry a hefty price tag in NYC) 

The ‘cleanest’ (ie: those with the least pesticide residue) fruits are vegetables are:

  1. avocados
  2. sweet corn
  3. pineapples
  4. cabbage
  5. sweet peas (frozen)
  6. onions
  7. asparagus
  8. mangoes
  9. papaya
  10. kiwi
  11. eggplant

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Furniture Without Flame Retardants: Coming Soon to a Store Near You!

Flame retardants are pretty bad.  Today, US born baby's are born with the highest recorded levels of flame retardants among infants in the world.  Their history and overuse in this country is long and ridiculous (and greatly thanks to millions of dolllars spent on behalf of the chemical industry lobbyist) , and, because of their prevalence (they are found in baby and children pajamas,  car seats, strollers, nursing pillows, upholstered sofas, electronics, crib mattresses and many many other products - even some soft drinks!)  they currently are present in the body of just about every single person living in the US’s.  

Flame retardants are so bad, that I tell everyone that if you can only choose to spend money on one organic product, if you only want to make one change in your house it should be investing in an organic crib mattress.  While more expensive, the idea of exposing a growing infant to flame retardants in conventional crib mattresses when they spend the greater part of the day sleeping freaks me out. Unfortunately flame retardants, even in baby products, are not limited to crib mattresses.  

Some of the health effects possibly associated with high levels of fire retardants include:
  •  lower birth weight
  •  reduced IQ (similar to lead poisoning)
  • hyperactivity
  • poorer coordination
  • reduced fertility
  • birth defects
  • hormonal changes
  • cancer
(for more information read : TRIS Flame Retardant : BANNED IN PJ's BUT ALLOWED IN CRIBS? and  HOW TO REDUCE TRIS FLAME RETARDANT EXPOSURE AT HOME.   Additionally, The Green Science Policy Institute has a list of \hundreds of references regarding the negative health impacts of flame retardants used in furniture.)

The good news is that new regulations concerning flame-retardant furniture went into effect in California on Jan 1, 2014. 


The old law, set in the 1970's, required furniture (yes, including crib mattresses) to pass a 12 second flammability test. 

The new law, requires that furniture must pass a test that demonstrates it does not smolder for no more than 45 minutes after being lit on fire.


This 44 minute difference translates to massive amounts of toxic flame retardants no longer being necessary to " protect" upholstered furniture and mattresses. 

Thus, this also will eventually translate into less toxic chemical exposure for everyone since manufacturers of new furniture that fall under this law can finally choose to NOT put toxic flame retardants on their products. (the law does not ban flame retardants, but gives manufacturers the right to choose whether or not to use them).

Especially meaningful is the positive ramification this new law could have on baby's exposure to chemicals through their crib mattresses and other items. Babies, as we all know, can spend upwards of 16 hours sleeping in their cribs.  Studies have shown how toxic chemicals  (not limited to flame retardants, since conventional mattresses also have VOC’s and other chemicals like limonele among others) are strongest in the vicinity where babies nose and mouths are breathing (ie.  they off gas from the mattress) 


If history is an indicator: yes!

California is a huge market ( because of how big and populated the state is). When the original law was passed in California requiring fire retardants on upholstered furniture many other states followed suit in the hopes to maintain one single nation wide standard. Even in states that did not have this old law in the books, all manufacturers stuck to California's requirements because it did not make monetary sense to have two products ( one with fire retardants and one without) within the US market.

Now that the law has been changed drastically, hopefully it will trickle down to the rest of the nation... making buying  safer, less toxic mattresses and upholstered furniture easier and more accessible to all.

According to the Green Science Policy Institute, the group that has been at the forefront of getting flame retardants out of our homes, "manufacturers can begin to make flame retardant-free furniture under the new regulation, TB117-2013, beginning January 2014. Although the new standard can be met without flame retardants, it does NOT ban their use. "

When shopping for non flame retardant furniture:
  • Look for the TB117-2013 label on products. Unfotunately, because the fire retardants are not banned there is still a chance that furniture with this new label contain the chemicals so calling the company is a good idea.
  • Seek furniture made of down, wool or polyester fillings are usually a safe options since they rarely contain flame retardants. 
  • Specifically regarding baby crib mattresses:  "Baby mattresses with a TB117 label
    Avoid furniture with this TB 177 tag.  
    are likely to contain flame retardant chemicals and should be avoided. Mattresses produced after January 1, 2014 will not have such a label and are unlikely to contain the chemicals, but it is prudent to verify with the retailer to make sure."
  • Although more manufacturers will likely start producing and selling furniture without flame retardants, these already do (but prices tend to be high) :
      • Cisco Home (
      • Eco-Terric (
      • EcoBalanza (
      • Ekla Home (
      • Furnature (
      • GreenSofas (
      • Viesso (
      • The Futon Shop (

                Saturday, February 22, 2014

                Chemical Conscious Parents UPDATE on Non-Toxic Car Seats

                UPDATE: (in December 2016 a new study tested 15 car seats for flame retardant chemicals.   To read the results, and how this Uppababy model did, read our blog post ' FLAME RETARDANTS CHEMICALS STILL USED IN ALL BUT ONE CAR SEAT BRAND TESTED (NEW STUDY)

                It sounded promising :  2 major car seat manufacturers ( Graco and Britax) promising to get rid of some of the most harmful flame retardants from their products. Parents everywhere sighed in relief:  finally at least one indispensable childhood item would be a little easier to buy.... but what has happened in the last 2 years?

                (to read more about the chemicals we are talking about and why you want to avoid them read our post : Who's The Most Non-Toxic Car Seat of Them All? )

                According to the Washington Toxic Coalition, in March of 2012 Graco disclosed to Washington State that it had indeed removed cancer causing flame retardant chlorinated Tris... however in its place Graco is now using TBBPA... another quite harmful chemical that has been shown to affect thyroid hormone activity.

                Britax states on their website “As of January 1, 2013, BRITAX required all of its suppliers to eliminate certain chemical flame retardants containing bromine, chlorine or other halogens, from all components used in its car seats and all other products — while still ensuring their ability to pass federal government standards for flammability. BRITAX is pleased to report that all of its suppliers have confirmed they are compliant .... Strollers do not have flammability standards. Therefore, BRITAX and BOB strollers are not treated with any chemical flame retardants."

                Monday, February 17, 2014

                Homemade non-toxic art supplies


                Lately we have been making our own play dough at home.   Its easy, cheap, fun for the kids and -most importantly- 100% non-toxic.  There are many recipes you can google but the one that works the best for me is the salt based playdough

                • 1 cup salt
                • 1 cup water
                • 1/2 cup flour plus additional flour
                • Saucepan
                1. Mix salt, water, and flour  in pan and cook over medium heat.
                2. Remove from heat when mixture is thick and rubbery.
                3. As the mixture cools, knead in enough flour to make the dough workable.  
                The playdough will be white.  If you want color you have various options:  you could use herbs (see below) or a drop or two of food coloring (which is not the most natural ingredient but in the name of balancing and perhaps making your life a bit easier I say its fine if you only use 1-2 drops.  )


                Recently after reading about cadmium in some children's paint I found a recipe for homemade paint.   I still haven't made it at home (mostly because I need to buy the ingredients) but it looks like a fun activity for the many snow days we have had recently.   The recipe has been taken directly from DIY Natural , a website I recently discovered and like.


                • Powdered herbs in varying colors (find our recommended source below)
                • Clay (kaolin/white cosmetic clay used to thicken the paint)
                • Liquid: water, egg whites, glycerin
                The powdered herbs recommended are:

                Regarding the liquids:

                • WATER: if you use water you will create something similar to  water color paint.  The downside is that you can only store this paint for about a week in the refrigerator before bacteria starts growing
                • EGG WHITES: make slightly thicker paint (wont run down your paper if you are painting vertically.  The downside is that the paint will only last one day
                • “food-grade” glycerin:  can last up to  a month is an airtight container and makes very spreadable (although a bit runny) paint.

                Happy art making!

                Want to read more about some of the chemicals some mainstream art supplies have?  Read our post Cancer Causing Chemical in Paint For Kids?

                Cancer Causing Chemical in Paint For Kids?

                Ask my older son what his favorite activities are and undoubtedly one will be "arting"  (his word for anything related to art). My son and I do art projects just about every week and sometimes more than once a week.... Tempera, water colors, markers, pastels, glue, glitter, you name it we have it at home. I love the freedom that art give kids to express themselves but I do worry about the chemicals these art supplies could potentially expose kids to... especially with the littlest kids who love to explore everything, including art supplies, by tasting them.  It might be one of the products I try to research the most because we use them so much.
                Last week I went to buy tempera paint at one of my favorite NYC art supply stores. As I was 
                looking around the children's area I picked up a pack of paint from a very well known art brand : Faber-Castell. They are known in the art world as makers of top quality art supplies.... So I was disappointed to see a sticker that read " WARNING: this product contains cadmium
                a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer." Just lovely - something that is known to cause cancer in paints being sold in the children's art section.
                So what is Cadmium and how common is it? 
                What is CADMIUM?
                Cadmium is a heavy metal used as a stabilizer in PVC and in coatings and pigments in plastic and paint (ATSDR 2012). 
                How bad is CADMIUM? 
                Pretty bad.  According the Healthy, Depending on the level of exposure, cadmium has been linked to:
                - developmental effects, including possible decreases in birth weight, delayed sensory-motor development, hormonal effects, and altered behavior (In animal studies)
                - adverse effects on the kidney, lung and intestines 
                - Cadmium is classified as a known human carcinogen, associated with lung and prostate cancer. 
                - Exposure to cadmium can result in bone loss and increased blood pressure 
                - if ingested, high levels of cadmium can result in abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and death 
                - Acute toxicity from inhalation of high levels of cadmium can result in symptoms similar to metal fume fever and severe gastroenteritis 
                - a 2013 study from Arizona State University found that children with autism had higher levels of several toxic metals in their blood and urine compared to typical children.  Cadmium and mercury were the metals most strongly associated with autism
                - Another study led by Harvard University found that children with higher cadmium levels are three times more likely to have learning disabilities and participate in special education. 
                Where is CADMIUM  found? 
                Not only in paint. Turns out cadmium is quite common in another product marketed to children: inexpensive children's jewelry.
                How do I avoid exposing my children to cadmium?
                Lucky for us parents, this is pretty easy.  Regarding art supplies; read the ingredients. Always look for non-toxic paint and supplies.   

                The question of what defines 'non-toxic' paint tends to come up at this point.  Is paint really non-toxic if you have to call poison control if ingested?  The Crayola  Material Safety Data Sheets clearly states that it all ingredients are considered safe and are non-toxic however it does suggest that  in the case of ingestion you should " Contact local poison control center or physician immediately".  Basically,  I do think non-toxic paint is fine, especially for older kids,  but if you have a very little munchkin who is prone to tasting everything you might want to take things a step further and make your own art supplies for a while.... this way you know exactly what ingredients your munchkin is eating.   It might be time consuming activity, but it might help you enjoy art time more.  

                Want recipes for home made play dough and paint?   Read our post Homemade Art Supplies

                Another option is buying natural art supplies.  While they cost a bit more if your toddler is chewing on his/her crayons it might be worth the cost!  Some we like are:

                 Busy Bee crayons are made from pure beeswax and natural pigments, and are wider and easier to hold

                Clementine Art:  Play dough, crayons, paint, markers and glue - all of their  ingredients are listed on each package. There are no chemicals or synthetic additives, just plant-based materials and good-enough-to-eat ingredients like flour, salt and vinegar. 

                Eco-Kids: another all- natural line of great quality art supplies