Because of bisphenol-A (BPA), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and phthalates, we have been greatly reducing the amount of plastic in our household. If we do give our daughter plastic toys, we do extensive research to make sure they’re free of these toxic chemicals. Clinical studies have linked BPA, PVC and phthalates to cancer, reproductive and endocrine problems as well as other health issues. Since children are small and developing rapidly, they’re especially vulnerable to exposure of chemicals lurking in plastics. How do we know which plastics to avoid? Healthy Child Healthy World has a very useful (and free) smartphone app and a section on their website with a cheat sheet. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Safer choices are plastics with resin codes #2 (HDPE or high density polyethylene), #4 (LDPE or low density polyethylene) and #5 (PP or polypropylene)
- Avoid plastics with resin codes #1 (polyethylene terephthalate), #3 (PVC or polyvinyl chloride), #6 (polystyrene) and #7 (if it includes PC or polycarbonate which can leach BPA)
A Safe and Affordable Wading Pool
When we were looking around at wading pools this summer, we spent a little extra time researching since the majority of them are plastic. We found that almost all inflatable pools and toys are made from PVC, listed as vinyl. Soft plastic that has a strong chemical odor (much like the smell of a new plastic shower curtain liner) is made of PVC and most likely contains phthalates. We were surprised and happy to find out that the affordable, old-fashioned molded pools are a safe option. Ours is a molded poly pool made by General Foam Plastics Corporation out of Norfolk, Virginia. We contacted them to find out exactly what the pool is made of since it doesn’t have a resin code on it. We were told HDPE (high density polyethylene.) You can find pools like this at stores like Target or Walmart and the cost is about $10. Some molded pools are made of LDPE (low density polyethylene) with the #4 resin code, which are also safe. Some can still be made with PVC so be watchful of the resin code or contact the manufacturer if in doubt.
If you’re looking for non-toxic pool toys, there are lots of fun options out there. Safe floaties are made of PVC-free polyethylene foam and feel more lightweight and porous as opposed to dense PVC foam. The infamous water noodles are an example of PVC-free polyethylene foam. Our daughter loves to play with her sea creatures, an interchangeable toy cup set by Boon. All of Boon’s products are free of BPA, PVC and phthalates. Melissa & Doug makes non-toxic toys like a cute sand molding set that’s also fun to play with in the pool. Green Sprouts has a set of stacking cups and sea life toys that are BPA, PVC and phthalate-free. Our daughter had fun with them when she was a baby and still likes playing with them now that she’s two. Of course kids are entertained with anything in the water, and will splash and pour for hours with things found around the house like cups and even wooden spoons. It’s just nice to know that if you’re shopping for special bath and pool toys, affordable and non-toxic ones can be found!
Non-toxic Garden Hoses
After hearing about toxic lead, BPA and phthalates found in many garden hoses, we wanted to make sure the water that goes into our wading pool is safe. According to HealthyStuff.org, it’s important to look at labels in order to avoid hoses with warnings that say “this product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects and other reproductive harm.” Never drink or fill swimming pools with water from a hose that isn’t clearly labeled “Lead Free” or “Drinking Water Safe.” It doesn’t cost that much more to buy a hose that’s certified for drinking purposes. Check out HealthyStuff.org for a shopping list of safe hoses.
When you think of filling a plastic wading pool with water, the last thing that comes to mind is Earth-friendly. However, there are a few ways to make your pool more “green.” We discovered that our two-year-old is perfectly happy splashing around in just a few inches of water, so there’s no need to completely fill the pool. We always reuse the pool water for the garden. When your child has outgrown their pool, there’s no need to send it to the trash. You can be creative by planting a flower garden in it, or since high density polyethylene is durable, your pool will still be in good condition to pass down to other kids. HDPE (#2) is a plastic that can easily be recycled without leaching toxins into the environment. LDPE (#4) can be recycled but you may have to check around your community for recycling options because some curbside programs don’t accept it yet.
With a few tips about selecting safer plastic and being mindful about reusing and recycling, you’ll have more peace of mind as your child splashes around this summer!