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