We’ve got the wide range of bath toys covered, but what about safe bath tubs and seats? You’ve probably noticed that most of the options out there aren’t marked with a recycling code, making it difficult to know what type of plastic they’re made from (like PVC).
We never dreamed how difficult it would be to find PVC-free baby/kid pools, floaties, life jackets and toys. After 5 years of searching, you'd think we would have quite a long list of options – but that's not the case. Summer's here, so have a look ahead at our newly updated list along with tips for avoiding pool toys that are generally made from PVC.
Products Typically Made with PVC
Inflatable Pools, Floaties and Toys
We found that almost all inflatable toys are made from PVC (usually listed as Vinyl). In fact, we didn't find a single one made from an alternative material, as there still doesn't seem to be a suitable substitute after five years of searching.
We realize that it's almost impossible to avoid them, so if you can't find an alternative product to meet your needs, we suggest you consider buying them used. This gives them a chance to off-gas before using it with your children, and also helps reduce the use of PVC (which is regarded as the single most environmentally damaging of all plastics).
Keep in mind that buying used doesn't help with phthalates, lead and other toxins common to PVC. We don't have the man (or woman!) power to research every single inflatable pool toy to find out which are phthalate-free, so you may want to contact the manufacturer before buying used items. Please note that this category includes the spring style floats as seen here, here, here and here. We confirmed with several manufacturers that the inflatable ring inside the nylon casing is made of PVC.
Dense Foam Life Vests and Mats
Most dense foam kickboards, life vests, and mats are made from closed-cell PVC foam and are covered in a layer of waterproof vinyl. Even the floaties made from non-PVC foam were mostly covered with a layer of PVC on the outside. You can identify them by their slightly rubbery exterior that's sometimes shiny. You can see an example of a PVC life vest here.
Life Vests with Neoprene or Nylon Covering
We were surprised to learn that most of our good old standby life vests were made with a PVC foam core. Their neoprene and nylon covering hides the interior, so be sure to contact the manufacturer to confirm what type of foam is used for buoyancy.
PVC-free Foam Core Life Jackets
UPDATE: We're so happy to report that we've been able to locate a handful of completely PVC-free life vests since we first researched this subject. These life jackets are made primarily with Gaia foam, NBR (nitrile butadiene rubber) foam or polyethylene foam.
PVC-free Pools, Floaties, Noodles and Mats
Polyethylene and EVA Foam Floaties, Noodles and Mats
Noodle style pool toys are usually made from polyethylene foam, which is PVC-free. This material is often used in packaging and as insulation as well. It can be identified by its more lightweight feel and porous appearance as compared to the dense, heavy PVC foam. Also, it typically doesn't have an exterior covering like PVC foam does. We found these floaties, mats, and toys made from non-toxic EVA or polyethylene foam.
Hard-sided Polyethylene Kid Pools
Thank goodness there are still old-fashioned molded pool made with PVC-free polyethylene around! They are getting harder to find, but we've seen them at Lowes here and here, at Academy Sports here. There's a great hard-sided pool made by Little Tikes, the Butterfly Beach Sandbox and Wading Pool here, and also the Step2 Play & Shade Pool pictured below.
Be sure to look for recycling codes #2, #4 and #5 because some hard-sided pools like this one are made with PVC.
What PVC-free pool toys have you found in your own research?
*NOTE: Edited to remove the H2OGO! My First Frame Pool after receiving conflicting info on ingredients (sounds like there may be PVC in the lining after all too!).
We've put together a huge list of safe teethers to help you find the perfect teether for relieving baby's aching gums without toxic plastic!
Here's a quick reference list:
- Dandelion Organic Teethers
- Wonderworld: Twisty Moby, Hexi Twist Squeeze Toy, Twist ‘N' Roll, Spacy Baby Toy, Flower Ring, Baby Bouquet, Caterpillar Rattle
- HABA's Color Ring Baby Rattle, Roll-Ring, Colorwheel, Moli, Salto, Kringelring, Loop-a-Ling
- iPlay Teethers: Green Sprouts Cornstarch Ring, Hand and Dumbbell Teethers; Natural Wood Crescent, Cage, Ring and Heart Teethers; Fruit Cool Soothing Teethers; Infinity Teether Rattle; Rainbow Rattle; Teether Keys; Silicone Teether; Organic Cool Soothing Teether Blankie; Organic Teether Bib
- Vulli Teethers: Sophie the Giraffe, Soft Toy Chan Pie Gnon Teethers, Cool It Soother Chan Pie Gnon, Vanilla Flavored Chan Pie Gnon, Musical Fruit Keys, Rattle Key Chain Chan Pie Gnon, Vanilla Flavored Teething Rings
- MiYim: Dino Eco Teether; Bear, Elephant, Monkey, Bunny Organic Knit Teether Rattles; all Organic Lovie Blankies, and all Organic Stroller Toys
- MAM Baby: Bite & Brush, Cooler, Bite & Play, Twister, Starter & Clip, Mini Cooler Clip, Bite & Relax (Phase 1 and 2)
- Sassy Teethers: Beginning Bites Teethers (animal faces), Ladybug Teethers (water filled), Butterfly Teethers (water filled), Jelly Fish Teethers, Coolin’ Teethers, Chilly Dilly Daisy, Gentle Vibes Leapfrog Lilypad, Buzz n' Bites, Sassy Teething Feeder, Teach Me Toothbrush Set, Teething Tunes, Gummy Guppy, Earth Brites Natural Wooden Toys
- Nuby Teethers: Natural Touch Teethers (Odd Ball, Three Star, etc.), Icy Bite Teether Rings, Gum-eeze First Teether, Jiggle Giggle Cool Bite Vibrating Teethers (cow and butterfly), Jiggle Giggle Vibrating Teethers (assorted animal shapes), Nibbler, Kool Soothers, Pur Icy Bite Teethers (triangle shape), Nuby Ice Gel Teether Keys on a Ring, Fun Pal Teethers (assorted animal shapes) Nuby Bug-A-Loop Teether, Fun Links and Fun Links on a Ring
- Green Toys Twist Teether
- DINGaRING Baby Teether
- LifeFactory Sensory Silicone Teether
- Hevea Natural Rubber Panda Teether
- Dr. Brown's: Coolees, Orthees, Flexees
- Combi: All teethers (4 month, 6 month and 8 month)
- Gerber: Cooling Gum Soother, Cool Fish Soother, Cool Ring Soother, OrbiTeether
- RaZbaby: RaZ-Berry Teether, Raz-A-Dazzle Silicone Toothbrush
- SmartMom: Teething Bling silicone pendants and bangles
- Camden Rose Maple Teething Rings
- Rich Frog: Natural Rubber Duck, Baby Duck, Lucy Goose, Sparky Rabbit, Peggy Pig
- Ringley Natural Teething Toys
- Earthentree Natural Wood Toys
- Soothie Pacifier Teether
- Zoli: Munch Silicone Teether, 3 Ring Teether, Gummy Stick Gum Massager
- Under the Nile Organic Cotton Teether Toys
- Dr. Blooms Chewable Jewels
- Kathy Kruse: Rainbow Baby and Nicki Baby
- Maple Landmark: Organic, unfinished Ring Teether, Oval Bell Rattle, and Disk Rattle
This week I have the chance to highlight Zenoobi, a fantastic company whose passion resides in being a trustworthy, go-to resource for a large selection of safer, more sustainable products. They focus on providing unique and carefully sourced eco-friendly, natural and organic products for babies and kids ranging from lunch gear, skin care, clothing, bedding, furniture, toys and crafts among others. I’m so impressed with their selection, and I trust in their ability to search out the best, safest and most unique products available.
Our family’s two tween girls have had their eyes on several of the craft kits for a long time. They finally settled on the Artterro Wire & Bead Art Kit, and the folks at Zenoobi were kind enough to send us one to try.
The girls got to work right away when the kit arrived! I enjoyed seeing their excitement about all the wonderful possibilities in the art box before them. The kit contained everything they needed to craft several wire and bead sculptures. Plenty of colored wire, beads and idea starters for our two girls.
They spent hours creating and re-creating wire and bead sculptures until they had them just so. At the end we had dinosaurs, pendants, necklaces, faces and tons of little accessories to display all over the house. The phrase of the day was, “I love sculpting!” and we were so pleased to find their young minds had been opened to a different area of creativity. I believe creativity = free thinking, and that’s something I strive for every day.
We couldn’t have had a better time with the art kit. The girls are already begging for another one, so something tells me we’ll be regular patrons of Zenoobi 🙂
Under a new law implemented by the Washington State Department of Ecology and Health to comply with the requirements of the state Children’s Safe Products Act (CSPA), large manufacturers of children's products likely to be placed in a child’s mouth or on their skin, or products for children age 3 and under, must report first will be required to report any chemicals deemed high priority are present in their products. Smaller companies will be phased into the program over the next several years and retailers who sell, but don't manufacturer products will be exempt.
How High Priority Chemicals Were Chosen
With as many as 80,000 chemicals in use today, the Department of Ecology determined that the chemicals to be included in the list should be documented as toxic by a state or federal agency, accredited research university, or by other scientific evidence deemed authoritative based on credible studies indicating the following effects:
- Harm the normal development of a baby or child, or cause other developmental toxicity
- Cause cancer, genetic damage, or reproductive harm
- Disrupt the endocrine system
- Damage the nervous system, immune system, or organs or cause other systemic toxicity
- Be persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic, or
- Be very persistent and very bioaccumulative
Some Common Chemicals Included in the List
- Vinyl chloride
Labeling is a Step in the Right Direction
As we know from watching the constant struggle with BPA over the last several years, legislation is a slow and arduous process. Parents are left worrying about what endocrine disrupting or carcinogenic chemicals may be lurking in their developing children's toys and skincare. Public access to information about ingredients in specific products is the perfect step in the right direction, allowing parents to at least make informed decisions about what products they buy.
Like I've always said, you shouldn't have to be a rocket scientist to choose safer products for the health of your child! Knowing what materials are present in a product will go a long way to empowering parents to speak out with their dollars. As the Washington Department of Ecology said, the rule is the first step in making children's products safer. And I agree.
It's becoming more common to see Styrene Ethylene Butylene Styrene (SEBS) used as a substitute for PVC in toys. But the question is whether it's a safer replacement or not . . .
What is SEBS?
SEBS is actually a form of thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) with styrene added. Green Peace lists SEBS as an acceptable alternative to PVC in toys. Polyolefin plastics such as Polyethylene (PE) and Polypropylene (PP) are the most common building blocks for SEBS, which don't need plasticizers (like phthalates) or stabilizers (like lead) for flexibility.
According to pvcinformation.org:
Additives, such as plasticizers and stabilizers, are a necessary component of all PVC formulations. Without these additives, PVC is brittle, degrades easily, and is unversatile. Softeners are not chemically bound to the PVC polymer, but rather float around the polymer, like water in a sponge, giving the plastic the flexibility required.
SEBS is already used in the production of toys (teething rings by Tolico in Denmark) and can replace PVC for the production of dolls heads (with hair) using rotational molding techniques, one of the most difficult PVC substitutions.
So Where is SEBS Rubber Normally Found?
Often called by the brand name Kraton®, SEBS is used in a wide variety of general-purpose rubber items as well as in handlebar grips, toothbrushes, sports mouth guards, diapers (as the elastic component) and teethers. The chemical resistance of SEBS is similar to natural rubber, having excellent resistance to water, acids, and bases.
So long, complicated story short – – toys like Boon's Odd Ducks are a safer option than the hundreds of other PVC yucky duckies out there!
P.S. On an interesting side note, SEBS is also used in the electrical industry for such items as flexible cords. Hmmmm . . . now I'm wondering why we're not seeing more SEBS in place of PVC electrical cords. I'll be looking into that!
We've heard your requests for a Safer Pacifier Guide, so we're all over it!
Here's a quick reference list:
- Natursutten Natural Rubber Pacifiers
- Hevea Natural Rubber Pacifiers
- Playtex Pacifiers: Binky Most Like Mother Latex Pacifier, Binky Most Like Mother Silicone Pacifier, Binky Angled Pacifier, Binky One-piece Pacifier, Ortho-Pro Pacifier
- Evenflo Pacifiers: Classic Jewel, Bebek Silicone, Mimi Soft Touch, Mimi Premium and Mimi Neo One-Piece
- Gerber: NUK Classic, Original, Wildlife, Nature, Genius and Dots
- The First Years Gumdrop Pacifiers
- Happy Baby Silicone Soother
- RazBaby Keep-it-Kleen Pacifiers
- Nurture Pure Silicone Pacifier
- Born Free Pacifiers
- Philips Avent Pacifiers: Soothie, Nighttime, Fashion, Freeflow, Bear, Translucent and Contemporary
- MAM: Original, Soft, Trends, Pearl, Start, Night, Attitude, Monster, Crystal, and Fairytale
- Nuby: ALL pacifiers, except for Ultra, Trends, and pureICE Gel, are listed on their U.S. website as 0% Bisphenol A
- Munchkin: The 2 pack pacifier, as well as pacifier attachers
- Tommee Tippee Pacifiers: Air, Soft and Clear Shield
- BooginHead pacifiers
- Dr. Brown's PreVent pacifiers
Remember to choose silicone over latex, because synthetic latex pacifiers can contain nitrosamines, a known carcinogen (Natursutten is an exception to this general rule).
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