THE PROBLEM: Many plastic toys are made from polyvinyl chloride (or PVC), a compound of petroleum products and chlorine. Furthermore, the production and incineration of PVC result in emissions of carcinogenic dioxin. Some toys may contain petroleum distillates, which are prohibited in countries like Canada because they can endanger children’s health if ingested or inhaled. Recalled products such as toy eyeballs and sunglasses have contained liquid petroleum distillates, posing a potentially fatal threat if ingested.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Although products containing dangerous petroleum distillates often get recalled, others still make their way onto the market. If you’re buying plastic toys, make sure you look at the label. Avoid products labeled “vinyl” or “PVC” and make sure plastic toys are labeled “phthalate-free.” Otherwise, look for toys and dolls made of unpainted wood, organic cotton or other natural ingredients. And to reduce toy waste, consider inheriting hand-me-downs from friends or families whose children have outgrown their toys or even check out toy rental services on the Web.