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The Tale of the Toxic Toy Aisle: A Holiday Story

Originally published by MomsRising December 2nd, 2010.
by Claire Moshenberg, MomsRising

The Tale of the Toxic Toy Aisle: A Holiday Story Two years ago, CHEJ and the Teamsters made a discovery: Toy juggernaut Toys “R” Us was peddling PVC-containing toys to the under-12 set. Toy-box classics like Toy Story 3 Barbie and You and Me Take Along Baby doll were exposing kids to toxic chemicals like lead, PVC, and more. And as anyone who has ever encountered a proud young toy-owner knows, toys aren’t just played with: they’re slept on, they’re gnawed on, they’re hugged within an inch of their lives. All of this kid/toy contact means one thing: constant toxic chemical exposure for the toys’ young playmates.

So in 2008, Toys “R” Us did the right thing. They publicly promised to take these toxic chemicals out of their toys. [1] It seemed like Toys “R” Us had finally figured out what parents and scientists already knew: PVC and related chemicals–which have been linked to rising chronic diseases in children including asthma, learning disabilities, obesity and cancer [2]– have no place in children’s toys.

Unfortunately, there was something else they didn’t know: the meaning of the word “promise.” After a lesson in toxics, Toys “R” Us apparently needed a lesson in vocabulary, since two years after their promise to rid their toys and packaging of PVC, a new independent study found toxic chemicals including PVC and its toxic additives in a random selection of 60 Toys “R” Us toy and infant products and packaging.


This holiday season, let’s give Toys “R” Us the gift of knowledge and teach them what a promise means. No need to wrap it up or tack a bow on it: Just sign this petition and let Toys “R” Us know that toxic chemicals have no place in our kids’ toys.

Independent researchers with the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, MI conducted two rigorous rounds of testing on over 60 random toys, analyzing them with the same devices as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And all of this testing revealed the unfortunate fact that Toys “R” Us continues to sell products made out of PVC, a chemical with the nickname of the “poison plastic,” without the promised labeling for parents.

Because of their rapid growth and development, and because of the way they handle (or manhandle, or chew) their toys, children are much more vulnerable than adults to exposure to toxins. Toxic chemicals, like organotins, can leach out as a result of a child playing with their PVC-containing toy. [3] And when these toxic chemical exposures come in the form of a much-desired new holiday gift, the kind of toy that doesn’t just show up at playtime, but is a plus one at naptime, snacktime, and all other daily activities, that chemical exposure becomes as constant as the presence of that beloved new plastic playmate.

Black Friday has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean holiday shopping is over. Many of us (myself very much included) haven’t even started. Gift-shopping is hard enough, and it’s frustrating that companies like Toys “R” Us are making it even more difficult by allowing their aisles full of potential kid gifts to be contaminated with pesky toxic chemicals.

Sign our petition asking Toys “R” Us to keep their promise!

Then, protect yourself in your holiday shopping travels by using the Healthy Toys database, a handy rundown of chemicals in a huge variety of toys that comes with a handy texting service and Smartphone app.

This holiday season, as Toys “R” Us gears up to peddle more of their PVC-contaminated wares, let’s lend them a hand and teach them a lesson they should’ve picked up when they were the age of their littlest consumers: “A promise is a promise.” It’s time for Toys “R” Us to fulfill their promise to protect our kids from toxics, and give us the long-ago promised non-toxic holiday season our families deserve.

(A giant thank you to our partners, Center for Health Environment & Justice and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for their work on this issue and for the fantastic report “Toxic Toys “R” Us PVC Toxic Chemicals in Toys and Packaging”)

[1] “Toys”R”Us, Inc. Announces further enhancements to its stringent product safety requirements,” Toys “R” Us Inc., February, 2008

[2] “Toxic Toys “R” Us PVC Toxic Chemicals in Toys and Packaging a A Report to the National Commission of Inquiry into Toxic Toys (PDF),” Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), Teamsters Office of Consumer Affairs, November 2010

[3] Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families