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Will someone tell me whats wrong with plastic toys?

1751 Views 25 Replies 20 Participants Last post by  Hazelnut
I must have missed the bus on what is wrong with them. So will someone please fill me in?
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Plastic toys can have phthalates which can disrupt hormones. Greenpeace thinks phthalates are linked to health problems like liver and kidney problems.

Here's a fairly recent discussion of phthalates on MDC.

I see you live in Germany. If I'm not mistaken Germany (and the rest of Europe) has a temporary ban on phthalates.
They are also not biodegradable, unlike wooden toys.
So its only dangerous if they chew on them? Here in Germany off post they still sell plastic toys I doubt they will ever stop selling them. It seems to mention only soft plastic toys like teething items butnot the everyday peek a block. I want the best for my kid so im trying to figure all this out. I LOVE wooden toys but they are too expensive to buy so she only has wood blocks.
there tends to be lots of harmful chemicals in plastics (totally oversimplifying the issue there)

also, a lot of plastic toys tend to be junky, throwaway, name brand-y, character-driven, product tie-in toys that take away opportunities for using imagination, etc.

this not to say that we dont have any plastic toys, b/c we do. or that all plastic toys are bad, which they arent IMO (playmobil people are some of our favorites!)

for me, the plastic toy issue is kind of a general feeling about toys. i dont really like overwhelming overstimulating toys or plastic toys that have that really smelly plastic-y scent, so i just go with my gut feeling.

So its only dangerous if they chew on them?
not necessarily. i would google harmful plastics or phtalates and see what comes up. there is some interesting info on the web about plastics.
DDs main toys are mega blocks, and little people sets without the sound of course. Also tons of peek a blocks I love the toys she does have. We don't buy character toys or try not to.
I am not 100% sure on this, but I think one of the issues with phthalates is something called "off-gassing." Things like plastics, carpeting, "fake-wood" furniture, frangrences like glades plug-ins, all create gasses in the enviroment that when inhaled are absorbed into a person's system and can cause negative health effects.

Often, plastic toys are designed to do the work for the child, leaving little to the imagination. They can be loud and overstimulating. Wood toys tend to be more subdued and require more imagination, can be used for more than one purpose in play. Wood toys are just more natural.

That being said, not all wood toys are great (some may contain lead in the paint used on them!!!!!) and not all plastic toys are horrible. It requireseffort on our part to choose what is right for our family.
it's more aesthitic with me... wood and cloth feel warmer, more welcoming to me. plastic just feels so mundane, cold, garish, unnatural. we do have a few plastic balls, buckets, and one truck, but the rest are wood.

my personal preference, really. that's all.
the one thing i dont like about wood is it hurts more lol...dd likes to chunk things at me and i rather be hit by a mega blok then a wood one...hmm now if they came with padding lol
European plastic toys are manufactured to higher standards- they seem to understand that many kids put every toy in their mouths, not just teethers. My daughter had a large breast lump with no medical cause. Phthalates from plastic or bovine growth hormones were the likely causes. And we use only phthalate free body care products, etc. Endocrine disruptors are very scary.
As others have said, they leach and offgas chemicals. Have you ever opened a plastic bag and been hit by that wall of plastic smell? Those are chemicals you are smelling. If you ever walk through a toy aisle, smell the plastic balls. It is well known that plastic water bottles leach chemicals into water when reused, and it only makes sense that similar things happen with plastic toys.

Also, plastic manufacturing is an environmental nightmare.

"In an EPA ranking of the 20 chemicals whose production generates the most total hazardous waste, five of the top six are chemicals commonly used by the plastics industry...These include propylene (ranked first), phenol (third), ethylene (fourth) polystyrene (fifth) benzene (sixth)." Ref: Wrapped in Plastics: the environmental case for reducing plastics packaging, by Jeanne Wirka for the Environmental Action Foundation, 1988.
It is also a dangerous industry. A plastic plant exploded less than an hour from me, killing many workers and contaminating the local air and water.

And I simply to not trust the plastic industry to be truthful. They have frequently denied that chemicals in plastics like phthalates and dioxins were harmful, yet that is proving to be untrue. What else are they lying about? They are a large coporate industry that benefits from harmful materials and processes, and they are going to try to protect their financial interests. Just like big tobacco. Just like DuPont and Teflon.

We do have plastic in our home, more than I am happy about. But we are slowly phasing it out and replacing it, as we can afford it. Unfortunately, my DD is the only granddaughter on both sides, so it's an uphill battle most of the time...
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my issue with plastic, besides the health concerns, is that plastic toys will be here long after I'm not here

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"America had been putting up with the ongoing expansion of the corporation into American life since the end of World War II. It had been the money-cow to the United States. But it had also been a filthy cow who gave off foul gases of mendacity and manipulation by an extreme emphasis on advertising. Put less into the product but kowtow to its marketing. Marketing was a beast and a force that succeeded in taking America away from most of us. It succeeded in making the world an uglier place to live in since the Second World War. One has only to cite 50-story high-rise architecture as inspired in form as a Kleenex box with balconies, shopping malls encircled by low-level condominiums, superhighways with their vistas into the void, and beneath it all, the pall of plastic, ubiquitous plastic, there to numb an infant's tactile senses, plastic, front runner in the competition to see which new substance could make the world more disagreeable."

~ Norman Mailer "Only in America"
My very own opinion that there is such a TINY risk of any harmful anything in plastic toys, it isnt worth the effort to not have them. THe risks have not been proven. I personally dislike wooden toys because they are porous and therefor cannot be cleaned or sanitized. The dirt and oils and germs are embedded in them permanently. Which is usually not a problem, either. But it squicks me out.

I dont think anyone should feel badly about plastic OR wooden toys. it seems to be one of those "personal choice" decisions that do not have great consequence either way.
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Here's another recent thread that discussed this very topic:
What's the big deal against plastic toys?

And here's a short excerpt from one of my posts in that thread:


Originally Posted by Arwyn
I think, from an environmental standpoint, the biggest difference between plastic and wood isn't "natural" - it's renewable. While petroluem is a naturally-occuring resource, it's not one we can make more of. And it's not something we can use (for toys) without lots and lots of still more resource-intensive processing.

Originally Posted by Stinkerbell
My very own opinion that there is such a TINY risk of any harmful anything in plastic toys, it isnt worth the effort to not have them. THe risks have not been proven.
The thing about whether or not something has been "proven" safe, for me, is the exact reason that I would put forth the effort to avoid it. When I say "it", I mean anything that I can't be sure of. I think this characteristic of always questioning and avoiding is one of the common bonds of AP/NFL parents.
I mean, if there's a chance that something may harm a child, then what is worth the effort, KWIM?
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Okay, I have been reading MDC threads for months and months now, and this is the first time I have felt a need to respond to one of them.

Your question, what is wrong with plastic toys? I would like to tell you about what is NOT wrong with them ... the PRICE!!! I'm wondering, if you are all AP, how are you able to breastfeed, cosleep and homeschool and still afford a strictly wooden toy playroom? I would have to get two jobs in addition to my husband's income to provide only the very best wood toys on the market for my two dds. And, then, I would not be able to do all of the other AP things that are so very important to me. So, this is what I do. I don't freak out about it. I don't hurt my inlaws or my parent's feelings when they purchase a plastic toy for my dds when I know they tried their hardest to pick out a good gift. It's not worth it. I control what I can. I go to second hand stores and participate in recycling (& my strict budget!) by purchasing a gently used plastic toy I know my children will get a ton of use out of, or perhaps be lucky enough to find a gently used wooden toy (which are hard to find, but I keep my eyes open). We save our money all year long to buy a beautiful wooden doll house, because we believe the big things matter the most. I can't worry about the "ifs" right now, there are already too many with being a parent, I can't worry about every little plastic item my children come in contact with. There's plastic everywhere!!! On the cell phone my husband uses to conduct business that my toddler happens to play with every now and then, on the refrigerator door handle, on dds carseats, on the buttons of their coats, the ends of the shoelaces on their shoes, their board books, their bath toys (can't say I've seen many wooden bath toys that are good for filling and pouring, if you have, let me know!), on our mailbox that we let them open everyday to get the mail ... I'm sure you get my point. And, are we not to go anywhere, like playgroup or the library where there are tons of plastic toys there to play with? Are we not to visit friend's houses with their kids' plastic toys? If they are presumed to be so poisonous, then perhaps the healthiest way to live is to be strictly Amish living with Amish people who make toys right in their own home by a woodburning fire. Sorry to be on a soap box here, you're probably wondering, "who is this lady? Never seen her post before ...", but I guess this hit a nerve with me because if you are a child in the modern world, you're going to play with plastic. And, I'm sure a lot of you Mamas out there are thinking "well, we can lessen the impact of the poisons our children are exposed to by being aware and getting wood as much as possible", and hey, I'm all for that. I really am. I'm not trying to persuade you otherwise. I'm mostly posting to advise KayasMama04 not to fret about some plastic. Unless you plan on wrapping your child in a 100% organic, naturally dyed cotton bubble, he's gonna touch some plastic. He's gonna put plastic in his mouth, if not from a toy, from a sippie cup at Grandma's or a straw at the fair. It's unavoidable. Unfortunately. Learn, be aware, but don't freak out. Control what you can. The best control I have over the toy "department" in our house is whatever they have, plastic, wood or otherwise, showing them all the ways they can play with it! For me, AP is about being there 100% with whatever you have to work with (or can afford). I help them explore all the toys they come into contact with, but I never replace batteries!

Ladybug Mama to two beautiful girls, (3 yrs. & 18 mos.), and wife
to crazy freefalling DH.

Seasons of Cosleeping: dd1
me with both
me with dd2
dh with dd1
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Originally Posted by Stinkerbell
I personally dislike wooden toys because they are porous and therefor cannot be cleaned or sanitized. The dirt and oils and germs are embedded in them permanently. Which is usually not a problem, either. But it squicks me out.
Wooden toys can be cleaned just like wooden (handle) kitchen utensils, cutting boards, etc. Wipe off painted wood. Periodically fill your tub with soapy water, throw the plain toys in, swish for a few minutes, then rinse. Dyes might fade a bit over time. Just like your kitchen stuff, don't leave them in for long, or the toys may start to crack, split, warp, or unglue. Add grapefruit seed extract to the soapy water for sanitizing.
Here's the other main point of my post in the other thread:


Originally Posted by Arwyn
I think the families who buy used plastic toys are doing great, and shouldn't feel like they have to run out and buy a zillion brand-new wood things they can't afford. It's about reduce, reuse, and recycle, in that order. Buying used is a great way to reduce your consumption, and is a way to help reuse a product that might otherwise be slated for the landfill - and a fair amount of the offgassing that can occur with plastic toys will already have happened. (Open up the box and get a noseful of "plastic" smell? That's toxic chemical offgassing. Buy a used toy and have to get way up close to smell anything? That's much safer.) And recyling - wood can biodegrade (nature's recycling!) within your child's lifetime. Plastic can't.

So buying new wood beats out buying new plastic hands down - but buying used, wood or plastic, arguably beats either. Go frugality!
Again, this is mainly from an environmental standpoint. There are other reasons to prefer wood over plastic that don't make distinctions between new and used (sensory issues, the large number of plastic things that require batteries, make noise, and do all the "work" of play for the child, leaving nothing for their imagination to do, etc), but my main interest in the issue is environmental, both the child's environment and the world's environment, both of which are well addressed by buying used.
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