Tips on shopping for children

Toxic chemicals can be found in new or used products, in products made in the USA or other countries, at high-end stores and in dollar stores. Aside from the limited testing data provided by, consumers essentially have no way of knowing what’s in consumer products.

The only way to assure safe products is to require the government to adequately regulate chemicals in products. Citizen pressure is important to make the government and manufacturers bring safer products to market – and it appears that initial federal rules on lead and certain phthalates in products for children under 12 have helped reduce those toxicants. But, there are many other chemicals of concern in kids’ products and all other consumer products. Please visit the Take Action page on this site and add your voice to the chorus asking for policy reform.

General Tips on Buying Safer Products

Buy less and consume responsibly! The easiest way to avoid toys with toxic chemicals is to buy less! For some tips on responsible shopping, see: GreenAmerica (especially "Living Green," “Responsible Shopping,” and "Shop and Unshop"), Center for a New American Dream (especially "Consuming Responsibly", and "Simplify the Holidays".)

Look up specific products in The data may be available on this website, or via browser-enabled mobile devices.

Check out plastics: Avoid toys that list vinyl or PVC as an ingredient (#3 plastic). Soft plastic toys like bath toys, squeeze toys, and dolls are commonly made of vinyl. Polycarbonate plastic (#7 plastic) should also be avoided. For a guide to safer plastics, see: If you're not sure if a toy contains vinyl or PVC try looking it up in our database. If you see high levels of chlorine, it is likely that the product contains PVC.

Choose natural materials: When possible choose plastic-free toys such as fabric teethers, unpainted wooden toys, or cloth and plush toys.

  • Choose wood products without paint or varnish.
  • Choose mattresses made of wool, cotton, or natural latex that don't have vinyl covers.
  • Choose wool changing pads or portable fabric changing pads that do not have vinyl linings.
  • Steer clear of vinyl lunch boxes; choose cloth lunch bags instead.
  • Choose uncoated cotton bibs instead of vinyl bibs, or choose bibs made of non-PVC plastic.
  • Avoid diaper covers, diaper bags, rain gear, backpacks, and toys made of vinyl (PVC).
  • Try giving your baby a frozen washcloth instead of a vinyl teether.

These are just a few of the many stores selling alternative products. Note: HealthyStuff does not endorse or vouch for the safety of these products. :

Avoid children's metal jewelry: Children’s jewelry is the children’s product area where has found the most problems with lead. Be especially wary of jewelry in coin-operated dispensers. Lead can be in the jewelry or in solder. Lead jewelry can be harmful or fatal if swallowed. Take costume jewelry away from your kids unless you know it’s safe. For more information, see the CDC's website on lead in jewelry.

Avoid products with small metal parts: such as stuffed animal eyes, noses, buttons, and closures. Small magnetic pieces should especially be avoided.

Buy books! Children love books, including activity books and coloring books, etc. (Choose books without plastic covers.)

Check recall lists: If a toy has been recalled, send it back to the manufacturer. To receive e-mail recall alerts, sign up for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's list.

Before giving any toy to your child:

  • Read the age label, warnings, safety messages, and assembly instructions. Do not ignore these guidelines.
  • Double check that there are no loose parts, broken pieces, sharp edges, or scratched, faded, or peeling paint. Be aware of wear and tear issues, and throw out any toy that is broken or falling apart.

Wash your child’s hands often: Your child’s developing body is at even higher risk due to frequent mouthing of objects and their own hands and living close to the floor where dust and other particles settle. Especially wash your child’s hands before eating and sleeping.

Wash your children’s toys: This won’t remove toxics that might be in the toys, but it can help to wipe off dust with a clean damp cloth. House dust usually contains a variety of industrial chemicals.

Assure your child has a healthy diet: A well-nourished child (including with calcium and iron) is less likely to absorb lead.

Use a HEPA-filter or vacuum: Children spend a lot of time on or near the floor and are more exposed to contaminants that attach to household dust. Good vacuum cleaners and air filters can help keep them safe from particles and allergens.

Consult your pediatrician: Your child’s doctor is the best person to talk with regarding concerns about your child’s health, including whether or not your child should be tested for lead.

Take action! We can't shop our way out of this problem. We need government and manufacturers to make our products safer!


Published on January 29, 2015