Bye-Bye Vinyl Toys?
Consumer groups are calling for a ban
Vinyl toys are the villain of the holiday season. A coalition of public-interest groups, including Greenpeace, is calling for a ban on vinyl pacifiers, squeeze toys, and the like, charging that they contain chemicals that can be hazardous to kids who suck or chew on the objects. Austria, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are planning bans on vinyl baby toys. In response to public outcry, Toys "R" Us began yanking teething rings, rattles, and pacifiers in mid-November. The vinyl industry, however, says its products are safe.
In question are chemical compounds known as phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates). Used to soften vinyl, they go into about 20 percent of all toys sold in America. A child who chews on vinyl can ingest phthalates; ingesting large quantities can cause liver and kidney damage in rats.
"A child would have to consume a toy a day for the rest of [his] life" to ingest the proportion of phthalate that would harm a rat, says Ray David, an industry toxicologist. "I say, why take the risk?" counters Gina Solomon, an internist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
A Consumer Product Safety Commission report on phthalates is due in December. Parents concerned about phthalates should shop for silicone and latex teethers and pacifiers (they'll be labeled) and avoid unlabeled soft plastics.
This story appears in the December 7, 1998 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.