Vinyl inflatables can mean phthalate inhalables: Phthalate plasticizers are widely used in PVC vinyl and give it that "new plastic" smell (and taste, if you're a kid mouthing a toy). Now that Congress has finally passed legislation banning toxic phthalates, linked to obesity in men and genital abnormalities in infant boys, from children's toys, we should be seeing more phthalate-free toys coming to market, as has been the case in Europe, which instituted a similar ban 10 years ago. Meanwhile, we haven't found a non-PVC replacement for children's wading pools, water wings or tubes. Should we toss these water toys? Not necessarily. PVC, the least recyclable plastic, will just go on to leach its toxins into landfills and groundwater. Just don't ask pregnant women and young children to inflate them, please. If the toys are new, let 'em offgass outdoors, but not in direct sunlight, as phthalates tend to migrate out of surfaces when they're heated up.
For safer water toys in general, Greenpeace's 2003 PVC Toy Report Card grades mainstream toymakers. We also like this blog that's found lots of alternative water toys. Let kids cool their tootsies in Rubbermaid tubs. Invest in swimming lessons instead of water wings and tubes. Hold your child in your organic arms! Also see sprigtoys.com.