Are Plastic Toys Still Safe? The Surprising Truth

Written by on January 4, 2013 in Family - No comments | Print this page


3 Rubber DucksThere have been many news reports and studies recently on the contamination of many plastic products designed for children. Toys manufactured from plastics all over the world have been shown to have high levels of lead, PVC plastic, BPA, toxic paints, and many other chemicals that are known carcinogens.

This has scared many parents into avoiding plastic products for their children, but are the alternative materials of metal and wood any safer? Although many toy companies claim that metal and wood toys are safer than plastic toys, there are also hidden contaminants in many children’s wood and metal toys as well.

Common contaminants in wood and metal toys

Despite their higher reputation for safety, many children’s products made from metal and wood also contain harmful chemicals. Some children’s wood toys are made from treated wood. The most common form of wood treatment uses the chemical process chromated copper arsenate (CCA), which contains arsenic. Children that play around wood treated with these chemicals are highly exposed to arsenic, especially if they place the wood in their mouths.

Metal toys often contain lead or cadmium, which is a proven carcinogenic. Currently, there is no regulation in any country that monitors the amount of cadmium that toy manufacturers can place in their products. While most companies in the United States and Europe no longer use lead, other countries are not so rigid in their toy regulations.

When plastic is better than wood or metal

In many cases, choosing the right kind of plastic toys over metal or wooden toys can actually limit the chemical exposure that children receive. In addition to reduced chemical exposure, there are also a variety of other cases where plastic toys are still superior to wood or metal toys:

Plastic is easier to clean

Plastic toys are much easier to sanitize than metal or wood toys. This can help prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria in schools, daycare, and even at home.

Plastic is softer

For the most part, plastic is softer and will not shatter or splinter like wood or metal products. This makes playtime safer for children.

Safe plastics contain no harmful metal

Some cheap plastics do use metal in the manufacturing process, but high-quality plastics do not. This will limit the exposure of children to dangerous processing chemicals that can still be present in wood and metal toys.

Plastic does not require paint

Some of the paint used on children’s wood and metal toys may contain toxic materials, such as lead. Even natural paint can chip off and cause a choking hazard. Plastic toys can be dyed rather than painted, which can improve the safety of the toy.

Plastic toys can still provide additional safety over metal and wooden toys. The key is to choose the right plastics from the right manufacturing companies. Countries like China, India, and some others have few laws regulating plastic safety. Avoid products from these countries. You should also look for plastic toys that are phthalate-free, BPA free, and PVC free for the maximum safety of the children in your life.

This is a guest post.  Kate Simmons is an occasional blogger and fresh graduate currently working for PSI.

Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield /


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