Beware of toxic toys and products

Beware of toxic toys and products

Although I might feel like I’m doing good and spreading the word, what are the chances that even three of those dozen actually sit down and read the article before pressing the delete icon?

Every mother aims to give her child the best of everything, the best products that are available in the market today, and if not available locally, probably sourced online or from those “foreign” cousins.  

However, what even the most educated of us seem to forget time and again, is not how well these products sell or how amazing the packaging looks, but rather what each of these products actually contain.

Over two years ago, a coalition non-profit group called Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released a report titled No More Toxic Tub, that revealed the results of tests by an independent lab on bubble bath, baby lotion and a whole load of other baby products that are seemingly harmless, if not advertising to be safe for babies, that actually contain 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde (actually quaternium-15 that releases formaldehyde) — chemicals that don’t appear on the product label, but in fact, are carcinogenic and can cause a rash on sensitive skin. Of course, the reason they are not on the product label is because they are not actual ingredients but contaminants and therefore not covered under labelling laws!  

Some may argue that the amount of chemical in these products is relatively small, but common sense would tell you that any amount of exposure to a chemical (especially since these products are used continuously throughout childhood) is bound to contribute to disease later in life.  Interestingly, in response, the same baby product’s company released a statement on October 31, 2011, saying it is “phasing out” formaldehyde-releasing chemicals from its baby products worldwide.

Concern is not restricted to cosmetics alone.  For instance, there was a huge hue and cry about the lead content in Chinese toys recently, but does anybody in India seriously pay heed? After all, these toys cost a whole load less and last just as long as your child’s attention span.  What makes the test results of toys, as released by Michigan-based Ecology Center (, all the more scary is that something as innocent as a ‘Dora, the Explorer’ activity tote actually tested high for both lead and arsenic with medium levels of chlorine and low levels of bromine. Worse, the 2011 report on 150 tested car seats proved that over 60 per cent of these contained one or more potentially-hazardous chemicals including PVC, heavy metals and brominated flame retardants that are either considered toxic or lack health safety data.

Here’s an abridged version of what should not be there on the product label of something you’re planning to pick up for your child:

- Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea are ingredients that are likely to contaminate products with formaldehyde.
- PEG-100 stearate, sodium laureth sulfate, polyethylene and ceteareth-20 are likely to be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane.
- Lead, cadmium, chlorine, arsenic, bromine, chromium, tin, antimony and mercury could lead to poisoning when high levels of these metals are present and potential liver toxicity, allergies and cancer.

Although sometimes it may seem that chemicals found in baby products are probably less than a fraction of the actual hazards our children in developing countries face every day, it doesn’t hurt to be just that fraction more careful when it comes to our children.

- Look for key words on product labels.

- Choose those with fewer ingredients or those that are fragrance-free or dye-free.

- Research even the most trusted product before you buy.

- Most importantly, go organic.  There’s nothing healthier than a certified organic product that has been made with natural ingredients and absolutely no trace of chemicals.

Forget saving the world for our children, how about saving our children for the world for starters. Food for thought.

Reethika Azariah Kuruvilla