In August 2008, Congress passed (and President Bush signed) the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a bill that bans for the first time lead and several phthalates from childrens products, including toys. Phthalates are chemicals used in manufacturing plastics like the iconic rubber ducky soft and pliable. Many toys, teethers, and other objects created for young children contained phthalates.
Unfortunately, phthalates are hormone disrupting chemicals that have been linked to increased risk for breast cancer, as well as other diseases. And although Congress recognized that these substances needed to be banned from toys and other childrens products, the ban only took effect in February 2009, so most older pliable plastic toys may contain these chemicals.
Because young children may be particularly susceptible to the detrimental effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals, and especially since infants and toddlers place so many of their toys in their mouths (warm liquids, including saliva will increase leakage of the chemicals), it is important to be sure that your young children have phthalate-free toys, teethers and other products. Older toys, including those bought at yard sales or thrift chops, may well contain phthalates, as will any you have bought before this spring. Finances are tight, but a couple of newer, phthalate-free toys and teethers will be worth the money in the long run.