Toxic Toys

Toys and other products that children play with and put in their mouths can contain a variety of chemicals that add color, shine and even make products soft. Most notably are a class of chemicals called "phthalates” which are used to manufacture polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic (ID # 3), which make children’s products soft and flexible. Some examples of PVC products include rubber duckies, teething rings, and bath toys. Studies show that phthalates cause premature birth and reproductive harm, such as sperm damage and reduced testosterone.

Due to increasing evidence of harm and public concern, governments began to legislate the removal of phthalates from toys. The European Union (EU) initiated legislation by banning the use of six phthalates in children's products. Following which, San Francisco became the first City in the United States to adopt the Healthy Products, Healthy Children Ordinance to ban the sale, manufacture, and distribution of children's products containing the six phthalates. Based on San Francisco’s lead, California adopted a similar ban through AB 1108 and the United States Congress approved a nationwide ban that became effective in February 10, 2009. Although the local legislation was repealed since the Federal ban, we are proud to be one of the first jurisdictions in the United States to take action to protect children’s health. Today, local retailers that sell products that can be placed in a child's mouth must comply with this Federal phthalate ban.

In an effort to help local retailers and parents choose safer products, we tested dozens of toys in partnership with the California Department of Toxics Substances Control (DTSC):

  • Please see our quick list of Tested Toys  (January 2009) to find out if a toy contains phthalates (Recommended for Parents and Consumers)
  • Please see our in-depth Tested Toys list (August 2008) for testing specifics such as phthalates type and amount found (Recommended for Retailers, Manufacturers, and Government Officials).

We also reviewed testing protocols developed by various governmental and non-governmental organizations to measure the types and quantities of phthalates used in plastic toys and summarized the procedures into a quick guide that businesses can use to test their products for compliance.

While this success story demonstrates how governments, the business community and families can come together to take action swiftly to protect children, it also highlights the importance of being aware of the potential for exposure to toxic chemicals through use of household products. Phthalates continue to be used in a variety of personal care products, including ones marketed for children. While reading product labels is important, phthalates are sometimes included in “fragrance” or “parfum” and are not listed separately. We encourage parents and retailers to remain vigilant and continue to advocate for safer products for our children.

Frequently Asked Questions about Phthalates – FAQs on phthalates, developed by Breast Cancer Fund

Additional Information for Toxic Toys

Frequently Asked Questions about Phthalates
FAQs on phthalates, developed by Breast Cancer Fund
Healthy Toys Website
Consumer guide and searchable database that contains the results of more than 1,200 toys tested for several chemicals of concern, such as lead, Cadmium and Arsenic.
Toxic Free Legacy Coalition website on phthalates
Alliance of organizations focused on the elimination of persistent toxic chemicals in the environment.
National Toxicology program expert panel review on phthalates
Scientific evidence on health impacts of phthalates
Not So Squeaky Clean: A Study of Phthalates in Toys
Report from the Washington Toxics Coalition that summarizes phthalate content toy testing results.