# Friday, December 12, 2008
                 

Health Canada has found that three quarters of soft plastic children's toys contain chemicals that have been linked to reproductive harm in children. These toxic chemical additives have been voluntarily banned in the European Union; the United States is joining this ban in February of 2009. Toys containing phthalates are still on sale in Canada legally so no enforcement of the voluntary ban can be taken.

Phthalates are used to soften the plastic in toys that are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Phthalates are not chemically bound to the plastic that they are added to; this results in the chemicals continually leaching from the plastic. This leaching process is accelerated when the toys which contain the chemicals are sucked on or put in the mouth of children. This exposure can pose serious health risks during a child's crucial development stage, causing such problems as reproductive defects, early onset of puberty, and/or lower sperm counts. Phthalates can cause disruption to the endocrine system and block production of testosterone. Some phthalates have also been linked to cancer when people are exposed to large doses.

Health Canada, along with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission called on toy manufacturers a decade ago to remove these harmful chemicals in all products that were intended for sale for children aged 3 years and younger that were likely to be chewed and/or sucked on. However this voluntary ban did not include toys that are produced for children above this age range where there still is a high risk of health problems due to these additives. Due to a higher cost in replacing these additives, some toy manufacturers are continuing to use phthalates despite the risks. As these toys are banned in Europe and will be banned in the United States in 2009, Canada will become a top market for these products.

Fortunately some toy companies have voluntarily discontinued using phthalates in the production lines; as well some retail stores are voluntarily no longer stocking these items. Hasbro and Mattel Inc. discontinued using these chemicals in their toy production shortly after the ban in Europe. As well, Sears Canada, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us have announced that starting in 2009 they will no longer carry toys that contain phthalates.

As of this date, there is no scheduled ban for these harmful chemicals in Canada. It is the responsibility of the Canadian consumer to be aware of the types of toys they purchase to ensure that it is not harmful to their children. The majority of toys that contain these chemicals originate from China where the use of phthalates is still predominating in the manufacturing of children's toys. These products usually do not carry a label that identifies the type of plastic that they are made of; consumers should look for words such as vinyl and/or PVC in the toy's description. As well, most toys that are composed of PVC often have a strong odor that is described as 'disagreeable'.  Toys comprised of PVC tend to feel soft and rubbery and most often do not immediately return to their original shape once they are twisted and/or bent.

For those consumers who are concerned about purchasing potentially toxic toys, there are alternatives. A variety of teethers are available that are made of fabric as well as non-toxic plastics. Wooden toys (that do not contain toxic paints) as well as hard plastic toys are also a safe option.

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