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!