Working as an assistant to someone who keeps a non-toxic home required me to do a lot of research on house products and children’s items, during which I was shocked not only to discover how prevalent toxins are in the objects we come in contact with every day, but how little regulation there is to protect and educate consumers. This knowledge, combined with a family legacy of cancer and heart disease, has inspired me to educate myself so that I can live as healthy and well as possible. I found that small changes and better choices can make a huge difference in the quality of your life and your effect on the planet. I love that NTR is helping to educate people so that they can live better!
When it comes to children’s toys and products, you’d be shocked at how toxic many of them can be. While there are laws demanding testing for lead and phthalates, the regulations state that the products must contain less than a certain amount, but not that they need to be completely free of them. There are no laws against BPA or Vinyl/PVC, so those toxins can legally be part of your toys as well. Of course, while you can’t avoid toxicity completely- unless you finally build yourself that organic, locally-sourced non-PVC bubble to roll around in- you can do your best to find products that are at your own personal level of acceptable.
So, if you find yourself concerned about the safety of a product you want to buy for your child, sibling, niece… or just wondering if it’s safe to snuggle up with your Hunger Games action figures, here is how you can go about making sure your item is non-toxic:
1. Find the manufacturer
The cashier at Target is not going to be able to tell you what that doll is made of, so look on the box and find the manufacturer. Sometimes the packaging will list the company’s contact information, making this step very easy. If you don’t have the original packing, or know the manufacturer, you can search until you find the item listed for sale on any online store, and from there you can see the brand name, and then use that information to run a search to find the company website, which should list their contact information. Finding out who actually makes the product (and isn’t just the distributor or retailer) can sometimes require a bit of time and you may jump from website to website in order to locate the parent company. Don’t worry, the Google machine is there for you, and this gives you a chance to practice your typing skills.
2. Contact the Company
When you call the company who makes the product, ask the receptionist for someone who can provide you with a materials list. This may be customer service, but sometimes it’s the sales department, while other times you’ll need to insist on talking to someone in product development. Ask them what the product is made of, and specifically if it contains Phthalates, PVC/Vinyl or BPA (you don’t want any of those things!) Everyone will tell you that their product meets the US safety requirements, but that’s not enough; you need to find out the materials used and whether it contains any of the three items mentioned earlier, information they may not volunteer without you specifically asking. Write down what they tell you, and don’t be afraid to ask them to spell it. Some of these words are going to be so long and consonant-heavy that you’ll think they are part of a made-up language. If you are suspicious that they aren’t giving you all the information, or don’t seem to know what they are talking about, it doesn’t hurt to ask to speak to a supervisor. As back up, also send an email through the website’s product inquiry page as sometimes web inquiries will go to a different service rep. Ideally you won’t get conflicting answers from each person, but better to be safe rather than relying on some annoyed customer service drone who is telling you what you want to hear just to get you off the phone.
3. Investigate the Information
Sometimes the company will provide a long list of materials; other times you may be given a number that corresponds to the items plastic recycle code. Again, fire up the internet and research, research, research. Click here to view NTR’s chart about recycle codes. Once you feel ok about the type of materials used, and are assured that the product is free from BPA, Phthalates and PVC , you can relax and move on to other problems- such as how to talk the kids into eating their vegetables.
– Stefanie Histed
Toxic Researcher Extraordinaire