How to Avoid Toxic Plastic Toys

How to Find PVC-free, Recycled Plastic Toys

Much has been said lately about the dangers of some of the plastic toys on the market today. Though plastic seems like a perfect material for toys—it’s indestructible, can be washed, and can last for a very long time, it may come with hidden dangers that make it less than safe for your child. Read on to understand the hazards in plastic toys and how to go about buying safer plastic toys. 


What’s so scary about plastic toys?

To answer this question, we first need to discover the many different forms plastic can take. Most plastic products, including toys, can be identified by the little number inside the chasing arrows on the bottom of the item (see them all on the Plastics Industry website). For our purposes, the one that should concern you when it comes to purchasing plastic toys is #3 (sometimes marked with a “V”) which is known commonly as vinyl, PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, though #7 plastics are also of concern. Toys made with these materials pose three important health and environmental challenges:

  • Dioxins: During the creation, recycling, and incineration of PVC plastics, a dangerous chemical known as dioxin is created—it is the third-largest source of dioxin.[1] Dioxins are considered some of the most toxic poisons known to humans, and can harm our neurological, reproductive, developmental, and hormonal systems.[2] They are persistent in the environment and can be found in our food and breastmilk.[3]
  • Phthalates: This class of chemicals is used to make plastics like PVC more flexible and can be found in teethers, backpacks, wood finishes, adhesives, perfumes, mosquito repellents, and medical devices. It has been linked to numerous health problems, including cancer, endocrine disruption, development delays, and reproductive system damage.[4]
  • Bisphenol-A (BPA): This chemical is used in the manufacturing of rigid, hard plastics like those used for baby bottles and some baby toys and pacifiers, and can be found on products with the resin #7. It too is persistent in the environment and our bodies, and has been known to damage cells in breasts, uteruses, and prostate, and can increase developmental disorders (such as ADHD) and nervous system problems.[5] It has also been linked to heart disease and diabetes.[6]


Buying safe plastic toys

To ensure your child has a safe playing environment with non-toxic, plastic toys then follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid PVC: This is easily enough done—just don’t buy anything with a resin #3 in the chasing arrows. But if the flexible plastic toy isn’t properly labeled, don’t buy it unless it’s are labeled as PVC-free.
  • Avoid BPA: Stay away from toys made with BPA by staying away from toys made with #7 plastic, especially if they’re going in your baby’s mouth.
  • Avoid phthalates: In addition to staying away from plastics with the #3 resin label, also seek out those that explicitly mention that they are made phthalate-free.
  • Choose recycled: If you can, look for toys made with recycled plastics which help to keep useful materials from ending up as trash in the landfill, reduce toxicity, preserve natural resources, save energy and water, and create jobs!

Check out the following online shops and guides to buying more eco-friendly plastic toys for your children:

If you are looking for alternatives to plastic toys check out our Organic Toys and Wooden Toys articles. 



1 PVC - THE POISON PLASTIC. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2010, from Greenpeace:

2 Chemical Encyclopedia - dioxins. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2010, from Healthy Child Healthy World:

3 Dioxin: A Poisonous Byproduct. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2010, from Health Care Without Harm:

4 Chemical Encyclopedia - phthalates. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2010, from Healthy Child Healthy World:

5 Check the Kind of Plastics You Use. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2010, from Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units:

6 Szabo, L. (2008, September 16). FDA backs BPA as study links it to heart disease, diabetes. Retrieved April 25, 2010, from USA TODAY:

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