What is the harm in plastic toys, baby bottles or drink and food containers containing PVC, BPA (Bisphenol-A), Polycarbonate or Phthalates?

An official definition of PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) will read something like this:

PVC is a polymer of vinyl chloride. It is tasteless, odorless and insoluble in most organic solvents. A member of the family vinyl resin, used in soft flexible films for food packaging and in molded rigid products, such as pipes, toys, upholstery, and bristles.

PVC is also commonly known as vinyl and is commonly found in products we use everyday as well as the toys our children play with. PVC in its natural form is hard. In order to make PVC soft and pliable manufacturers add softeners or "plasticizers". The most common plasticizer used is phthalates (pronounced thal-ates) and it typically accounts for 10% - 40% of the weight of the plastic material.

Phthalates are a family of chemical substances that have been in use for more than half a century. Phthalates are not chemically bound to the plastic resin polymer (they're just "mixed in"), therefore they are free to migrate or leach out under certain conditions (e.g. during sucking or chewing). There are quite a few phthalates (plasticizers) commonly used in toys and each one has it's own properties and effects on the environment and human health.

DIDP (Di-isodecyl phthalate) and DINP (di-isononyl phthalate) are two types of phthalates used and studies have shown that they are absorbed well when swallowed or breathed in, but are poorly absorbed through the skin. In laboratory animals the main effects of DIDP and DINP are on the liver and include cancer. Humans are thought to be much less sensitive to these liver effects and the cancer is caused by a mechanism which is only seen in rodents and not in humans. Research also found that DIDP and DINP affects the survival of rat offspring. DIDP does not appear to interfere with hormones and reproduction, but DINP may have some impact on male hormones. Studies showed that rats and mice fed very high doses of DINP developed liver and/or kidney tumors after exposure over a lifetime. However, there is growing consensus that these effects are not relevant to humans. Concerns have been expressed about possible developmental effects as well as possible chronic liver and kidney toxicity, but these effects have been associated only with very high doses in laboratory studies and, as with the tumors, are probably not relevant to humans.

There are a lot of debate over the outcomes of the research done on the impacts of these plasticizers on the environment and human health. Some groups advocating a total ban on phthalates in toys and other groups believing that the effects of plasticizers on lab animals are not relevant to humans. However research did conclude that it is best to ban DIDP from toys for newborn babies and infants under the age of three because they are the most likely age group for mouthing toys. Europe has also gone as far as banning phthalates in toys.

The author's conclusion - studies are still underway but here in North America our government and powers that be believes that there is no harm in allowing phthalates in toys - they may be right but I for one is not going to put my children at risk to find out later that they were wrong.

At Ape to Zebra we do carry toys made from plastic but we are only selling plastic toys free from BPA and harmful phthalates. Some of our toys may contain vinyl. We offer our customers choice, we have safe plastic toys but also offer a wonderful range of natural and organic toys for customers that prefer that.

Our German made, safe bath beach and sand toys by Spielstabil is made from food grade, PVC-free, ABS plastic Polyethylene and Polypropylene.Safe Baby Beach pails made in Germany

The Vinyl used for Kathe Kruse and Petitcollin dolls are safe and has been tested to not leach chemicals. The Vinyl used for these European made dolls is nonyphenol-free and phthalate-free. The vinyl used for the Kathe Kruse dolls are tested via the Chemical-Techinical Institute in Germany to ensure it is safe. Plasticizers are essential to soften and plasticize the naturally rigid Vinyl material, so that e. g. toys do not break while playing. All Vinyl used by the Kathe Kruse company is mixed and processed with the non-phthalate plasticizer Hexamoll® DINCH by BASF. A current eco-efficiency analysis confirmed that Hexamoll® DlNCH has the best test results among the five most important non-phthalate plasticizers on the market. That makes BASF´s Hexamoll® DINCH the product with the lowest environmental impact from production to disposal.