The Problem

Many toys contain synthetic substances that are known to be hazardous to children’s health. These include softeners used in plastic toys, which can disrupt the hormone system, formaldehyde used in glued wooden puzzles, which can cause cancer, or flame retardants used in teddy bears, which can adversely affect a child’s development. Independent tests confirm that almost all of these hazardous chemicals can be substituted by safer alternatives.


Children are much more sensitive than adults to exposure to toxic chemicals due to their larger skin surface relative to their weight, higher respiratory volume and higher metabolism rate; they absorb more toxic substances than adults. Their immune and nervous systems are still developing and their detoxification systems are not fully functional. In addition, a baby’s skin is considerably thinner than that of adults and the skin is not yet developed enough to act as a barrier. Children are exposed to a multitude of hazardous chemicals from different sources, not only from skin care products and toys but also from everyday products like clothing, food or furniture.

Some hazardous substances, in particular endocrine system disruptors, may cause severe effects even if humans are exposed to very low amounts.

Possible health effects

Children are in very close contact with their toys and frequently put them into their mouth. Therefore, it is very likely that hazardous chemicals in the toys may enter the body of the child. Children will not poison themselves from toys. But they start collecting substances in their body, which over time and when accumulating, may cause serious health problems, such as cancer or reproductive disorders. The fertility of young men and young women is suspected to decrease, among other due to exposure to chemicals, which may also be contained in toys.

Uses Hazardous chemicals Possible health effects Used in products
Various dyes and pigments Aniline Very toxic, carcinogenic and mutagenic Dolls
Various dyes and pigments Azocolourants Carcinogenic, causes allergies Dolls, cuddly toys, wooden toys, plastic
Dyes and pigments: create the red, orange, and yellow pigments Cadmium Carcinogenic, toxic by inhalation, impairs fertility, disrupts development of children’s brains Dolls, wooden toys, plastic
Dyes and pigments: create the green, orange, and yellow pigments Chromium Carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic: causes severe burns, impairs fertility. Dolls, cuddly toys, wooden toys, electronic toys
Dyes and pigments: create the red, orange, and yellow pigments Lead Carcinogenic and impairs fertility. Effects on the developing brain Dolls, wooden toys, plastic, electronic toys
Fire retardant Brominated flame retardants Persistent, bio-accumulative, toxic; some kinds are also classified as carcinogenic, toxic, disrupting the reproductive system; some disrupt the hormone system Dolls, cuddly toys, plastic, electronic toys
Bind pigments to the cloth. Fire retardant. Wrinkle resistance. Water repellence. Adhesive in wood products Formaldehydes and formaldehyde releasers (e.g. benzylhemiformal, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane, diazolidinyl urea, Imidazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, DMDM Hydantoin). Irritates mucous membranes and skin, can cause hypersensitivity, carcinogenic (nasal pathway) Cuddly and wooden toys
Water, grease and soil repellence Perfluorinated chemicals (PFC) Carcinogenic, disrupts fertility Dolls, cuddly toys
A main component in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics, epoxies, and epoxy resin Bisphenol-A (BPA) Disrupts the reproductive and hormone system, and increases the risk of cancer Dolls, plastic, electronic toys
Plastic stabiliser. Surfactant in processing textiles Nonylphenol
Endocrine disruptor, persistent, accumulates in the environment Dolls, cuddly toys, plastic
Plastic stabiliser, usually found in clear plastic Organotin compounds Irritates the eyes and skin, toxic to the reproductive system, if ingested is harmful to the central nervous system, endocrine system and reproductive system. Dolls, cuddly toys, wooden toys, plastic
Plasticiser Chlorinated paraffins Carcinogenic, disrupts the hormone system Dolls, plastic, electronic toys
Plasticiser, usually found in soft plastic, pellets for stuffing cuddly toys. Can also be used as a synthetic fragrance compound in scented toys Phthalates Disrupts development and the hormone system Impairs fertility Dolls, cuddly toys, plastic and electronic toys
Antibacterial agent Triclosan Can cause allergies and bacterial resistance, disrupts the endocrine system Dolls, cuddly toys and  plastic


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