child with face maskGo walking through the toy aisle at any store, and you're bound to see the term "non-toxic" bandied about. It's a term parents should take with a (giant) grain of salt. After all, a government agency just put out a call for a permanent ban on five different phthalates in items made for kids. 

Phthalates, if you haven't heard the term, are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break, and they commonly show up in kids' toys and other childcare products. Now for the scary part: the CDC says phthalates can affect the reproductive system in lab animals. The EPA calls the plasticizers "endocrine disruptors or hormonally-active agents," and the National Toxicology Program warns the chemicals may adversely affect human reproduction or development.

And these are in our children's products?! In 2014?

It turns out some of the scary chemicals have been removed over the years. Certain phthalates haven't been used in pacifiers, soft rattles, and teethers since 1999, for example, and three more phthalates (there are more than a dozen types) were banned in 2008.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

According to a report issued last month by the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel, an arm of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP), di-n-pentyl phthalate (DnPP), di-n-hexyl phthalate (DnHP), and dicyclohexyl phthalate (DCHP) are all used in kids' products -- and should all be banned, even at microscopic levels. The panel also called for an interim ban on diisononyl phthalate (DINP) be made permanent because that chemical "had maximum potential for exposure to infants, toddlers, and older children."

There is good news here for parents, although frankly not much. The panel concluded most of kids' exposure to these dangerous chemicals came not through their toys and other childcare items but through food, beverages, and drugs.

But it's there.

Mouthing teethers and toys, for example, were cited as a source of exposure to DINP for young kids.

So much for non-toxic and safe for children, huh?

The thing moms really need to ask their legislators is why is this stuff in kids' products at all? It doesn't matter if it's at microscopic levels or if it's not the main source of contamination for kids.

It's there. That's a problem.

More from The Stir: The Ultimate Non-Toxic Baby Guide: How to Find Safe Products for Your Child

If back in 1999 they were already seeing issues with this stuff, why are we still dealing with it 15 years later? How many millions of kids have been exposed in that time? And how many millions more WILL be exposed until someone does something?

NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has introduced a bill in the Senate to expand prohibitions on what is used in production of children's products -- but it's still just sitting in a committee, waiting for someone to care enough to move it forward.

It's hard for us as parents to really find the time to write our legislators about chemicals in kids' products. We have enough on our hand between changing diapers, helping with homework, and trying to pay our bills.

Sadly, however, this is what it means to be a parent ... to fight for our kids at every turn. So while we should be able to buy something that says "non-toxic" and actually spend our (rare) free moments playing with said "non-toxic" play thing with our kids, giving them our quality time, instead this is what we face: a world where we can't trust the big guys to help take care of our little guys (and girls).

What are you doing to keep your kids safe from these scary products? Did you know this stuff was still hiding in there?

 

Image via © wojciech_gajda