Although thousands of toys have been recalled because they contain lead paint, other chemicals found in products designed for babies and children also pose health risks. Phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA) are of particular concern because these hazardous chemicals are known to disrupt hormone function and are found widely in products that children are exposed to every day.

Phthalates in Children’s Products

Phthalates are a “plasticizer” used to make plastic more flexible and resilient. These chemicals can be found in rubber duckies, inflatable swimming pools, chew toys and other children’s toys, and plastic clothing such as raincoats. Phthalates are also used to carry and “stick” fragrance in personal care products such as soap, shampoo and lotion. Exposure to phthalates has been linked to adverse effects on reproduction and development, as well as respiratory problems and organ damage.

Download Phthalates Fact Sheet pdf

Bisphenol-A (BPA) in Children’s Products

Bisphenol-A is used to make epoxy resin and polycarbonate plastic products and can be found in certain water bottles, baby bottles, food storage and heating containers, linings of metal food cans, and certain plastics used in children’s toys. Even at low exposure levels, bisphenol-A is a potent endocrine disruptor that stimulates prostate and breast cancer cells and is linked with decreased sperm production, miscarriage and adverse effects on behavior.

There are stages throughout a child’s life where they are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effect of chemicals. A child’s exposure to environmental chemicals is insidious and may begin during the prenatal phase (pregnancy) and continue during infancy from direct ingestion of breast milk and other dietary sources, as well as house dust and soil. Chemicals have a high affinity for fatty tissues resulting in significant exposure through food.

Children are more vulnerable than adults to harm caused by toxic chemicals:

  • A child’s “dose” per body weight is likely to be much higher than adults.
  • Young children spend a lot of time on the floor and have a natural instinct to put things they find interesting in their mouths, making them more likely to be exposed to chemicals that adults may not necessarily encounter.
  • Per pound of body weight, children breathe more air, consume more food, and drink more water than adults, which makes their intake of particles and other contaminants proportionally larger.
  • Babies and small children are in the process of developing their immune systems, making them more vulnerable to contaminants in the environment.

Chemical ingredients in children’s products do not need to be tested for safety before being used. As a result, everyday children products can contain chemicals that have been linked to learning, behavioral problems, hormone disruption, asthma, reproduction and development, as well as respiratory problems and organ damage.

How Can You Reduce the Exposure?

  • Avoid products containing PVC plastic, such as building materials and children’s toys made of this material.
  • Look for “Phthalate free” and “BPA free” products, or products without the ingredient “fragrance”.