puppies sleeping with baby

50% of toys from China contain toxins, study reveals

A Chinese consumer organization recently warned Chinese parents to not to let children put toys in their mouths after many were found to contain a toxic agent that could cause liver or kidney damage.

This stunning advice came after the Consumer Council found phthalates at concentrations up to 300 times above what U.S. and European Union standards allow in over half the toys it tested.

The chemicals found are used to make plastic flexible and more durable are banned by the U.S. and E.U. at concentrations over 0.1% in children’s toys, bedding and teething devices.  Of the Chinese toys tested, most contained phthalates and several had concentrations of 28% to 38%.

China has no regulations on the use of plasticizers (phthalates) in children’s products, or for that matter in pet products either.

Junior – don’t you dare put that phthalate in your mouth

While the council warned parents not to let young children play with toys alone, they also cautioned they should make sure “they do not put the toys in their mouths.”

The council explained that although the toxicity levels are not high enough to pose a direct health threat to adults, young children are at risk because of their tendency to chew or suck on toys.

Much like children, pets chew and suck on toys. Because pets almost exclusively use their mouths to play with toys, the advice given to human parents would be not only impractical, but impossible for a pet parent to heed.

Phooey on phthalates 

It is important to realize that when warnings about toxic chemicals such phthalates are mentioned, they are based on tests conducted on animals that linked chronic exposure to phthalates to liver and kidney problems.

Ironically, the very chemicals that induced serious health problems in laboratory animals, pet toys, unlike toys for children, are not regulated for toxic chemicals.

Since there are no U.S. government standards for hazardous chemicals in pet products, it would be not be surprising if the same test were to be conducted on pet toys that toxic chemicals would be found; likely with many at higher concentrations than in toys for children.

What a difference a ball makes

For example, a study comparing tennis balls for sport and tennis balls sold as pet toys found that the tennis balls intended for pets were much more likely to contain lead, while sports tennis balls contained no lead at all.

In 2009, the largest study ever conducted on toxins in pet products, found shockingly high levels of toxic chemicals; they found that 45% had detectable levels of one or more hazardous chemicals, including:

  • One-quarter had detectable levels of lead;
  • 7% had lead levels greater than 300 ppm;
  • Nearly half of pet collars had detectable levels of lead (nearly 30% exceeding 300 ppm);
  • One-half of tennis balls tested had detectable levels of lead.

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree, why did you burn my house down?

Meanwhile, the council also warned consumers of a series of safety hazards in unbranded Christmas lights made in China which had such defect that could lead to overheating, melting, fire or electric shock, saying some were “probably too good a bargain to be true”.

Wise advice, not just cheap Chinese Christmas lights, but,  for most, if not all, inexpensive pet toys and pet related merchandise sold in U.S. stores today.

Find out more: Plastic toys may be harmful to young children

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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, the author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and consumer advisor. Help support her work by making a donation today.

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