Author Archives: Lena Milton

Sustainable, Non-Toxic Toys: Where Are We Headed Next?

Sustainable Baby Toys

As a parent, you’re probably familiar with what the typical playchest looks like: full. of. plastic. Unfortunately, while plastic is certainly convenient, plastic poses risks both to the environment and your child’s health.

This guide will discuss current progress in the world of sustainable, non-toxic toys, and will walk you through how to pick toys that are safe for the Earth and human health.

What’s the Problem with Conventional Toys?

As you may have gathered by now, our reliance on plastic is one of the main problems with toys today. Not only is plastic extremely carbon-intensive, as it’s made from fossil fuels, but it also can contain harmful chemicals. 

Unfortunately, a whopping 90% of toys on the market today are made from plastic. This reliance on plastic has severe environmental impacts, ranging from contributions to global warming to creating large amounts of plastic waste. For example, plastic often breaks down into microplastics that litter our land and oceans. Finally, when plastic toys end up in landfills, they can break down and leach chemicals into the air, soil, and water. Not only does this harm ecosystems, but it can also cause exposure to these chemicals through our food and drinking water.

Many plastic toys contain dangerous chemicals or heavy metals such as cadmium and lead. For example, some toys contain phthalates, a class of hormone-disrupting chemicals used to soften plastics. While some countries like the US and the EU have begun regulating the use of phthalates in toys, many toys do not undergo appropriate toy safety testing and may still contain the chemical. While exposure to dangerous chemicals in plastic toys is fairly low, the risk goes up if the toy is broken or your child chews on it.

Luckily, many of the innovations that make toys sustainable also make them safer for humans.

Making the Move to Safe, Eco-Friendly Toys

1. Check your materials

The materials a toy is made of are the biggest indicators of both sustainability and safety. We’ll tackle safety first. As mentioned above, many toys are manufactured with dangerous chemicals. Instead of buying plastic toys, consider buying toys made from non-toxic materials like stainless steel, which is 100% non-toxic. In fact, most of us put stainless steel into our mouths every day in the form of silverware. 

Other non-toxic materials for toys include unpainted wood, natural rubber, or toys made with wood that use natural, non-toxic sealants and dyes.

Sustainable toys employ many of the same materials as non-toxic toys. After all, if it’s toxic to humans, it’s often toxic to the environment as well. Luckily, avoiding plastic and other unsustainable materials is getting easier every day, as many toy companies are beginning to produce toys from new materials. For example, researchers are working on 3D-printing toys made from beetroot puree, a material that is not only healthier for children, but also has a much lower carbon footprint.

Other more sustainable materials to look out for include:

  • Stainless steel, like Kleynimals toys, which are 100% recyclable and made from around 50% recycled materials
  • Cotton
  • Wool
  • Wood
  • Bamboo
  • Hemp
  • Other natural fibers

2. Ensure proper use

One of the main ways to make sure a toy is safe for your child is to make sure it’s being used as intended. Some toys can become dangerous when they’re taken apart, as this can cause choking hazards or exposure to toxic chemicals in toys. Some electronic toys may overheat. Make sure to read the instructions on any more complicated toys you buy to make sure your kid can play with it safely. It’s also important to monitor play, especially with toys with small parts or electronic toys. 

Your best bet, of course, is to simply use toys that are simple and non-toxic in every situation. For example, especially with babies and toddlers, there’s a strong chance that a toy will end up in their mouth whether it was meant to or not! Pick the safe option of simply buying a toy that is mouth-safe.

Finally, part of “proper use” is proper disposal when you’re done with the toy. First, you can always donate the toy to your local thrift shop. If the toy is beyond the point of usefulness, however, consider recycling it. Before chucking the toy in the trash, where it may end up leaching toxic chemicals from the landfill into our environment, check to see if the toy can be recycled. Many plastics and metals can be recycled, and some toys, like toys made of wood, might even be compostable!

3. Get safety-tested toys

As we discussed above, the best way to ensure your toys are safe is to buy toys made from safe materials. If you’re ever unsure, though, consider buying from manufacturers that adhere to strict toy safety testing procedures. This not only helps ensure the toy doesn’t contain harmful chemicals, but it also ensures that the toy is functional and safe to play with.

Some toys may also have sustainable certifications. For example, toys made from cotton may be GOTS certified, meaning they’re fully organic (which also means no toxic pesticides!). Another label to look out for is fair trade certification, which certifies that the toy was produced under ethical and sustainable conditions. 

4. Buy durable toys

Let’s face it – most kids are not exactly gentle with their toys. In fact, you can almost bet on toys ending up on the floor at least once, if not all the time! The best way to practice sustainability is to buy durable toys that you won’t need to replace every time they break. This helps reduce the need for more production of plastic, which helps limit the energy and emissions necessary to manufacture new toys.

Buying durable toys is also a smart measure to take in order to avoid small pieces breaking off and posing a choking risk.

Kleynimals toys are made entirely from stainless steel, so your child can truly put the toy through its paces without breaking it. And if (when!) the toy does get dropped, you can simply rub out any rough spots with a nail file to make it look brand new again!


How to Pick Safe Diapering Products: Nontoxic Diapers, Creams and Wipes

Safe Diapering Products

It can feel overwhelming when buying products for diapering your baby. There seem to be a million and one opinions on which diaper is the most leak proof, which rash cream is the most soothing and which wipes are the most effective.

As parents, safety is of course your number one concern. While there are many guides on how to diaper safely, many of us didn’t even consider the safety of the actual products we use. Unfortunately, some diapering products contain chemicals that can harm you and your baby.

If you’re wondering where to even begin, this guide is for you. Here are the basics on safe diapers, safe diaper creams, and safe diapering cleanup.

Safe Diapers

The main question when it comes to diapering is whether to use cloth or disposable diapers. Besides the possible environmental and economic benefits of cloth diapers, cloth diapers may win when it comes to safety as well.

Are Disposable Diapers Safe?

Disposable diapers contain many synthetic chemicals that may pose dangers to your health at high exposures. 

For example, many diapers use the chemical tributyltin (TBT), which is an irritant and which, at high levels, can cause nausea and diarrhea. Disposable diapers may also contain TBPP, a toxic plastic additive, as well as diethanolamine, a chemical used in a number of products that acts as a skin irritant. Lastly, disposable diapers contain sodium polyacrylate, which works to absorb liquids. Sodium polyacrylate is also an irritant and can harm your baby through skin absorption.

It’s worth noting that although disposable diapers do contain chemicals, the level of exposure is likely not high enough to cause health problems. For example, one 2015 study found that while diapers may contain phthalates, hormone disrupting chemicals, exposure levels are extremely low and likely not dangerous. 

So while some disposable diapers may be safe, research is still ongoing, and it may be a good idea to avoid disposable diapers for now.

How to Pick Safe Cloth Diapers

Luckily, picking safe cloth diapers is pretty simple. The safest fabric to use for your cloth diapers is organically grown, undyed cotton. 

Cotton grown with pesticides or using conventional dyes can cause irritation and other health problems. Learn more about safe fabrics for your children here[1] .

Safe Diaper Creams & Baby Powders

Many parents rely on diaper creams and powders to help protect their baby’s sensitive skin. It’s important to read the ingredients on these products in order to make sure they’re safe.

Creams

When it comes to diaper rash creams, you don’t want to risk causing even more irritation! Many diaper creams contain fragrances and other chemicals that irritate the skin or cause other health problems. For example, many diaper creams use petroleum oil, which penetrates skin, stays there, and may even cause cancer.

A good natural option is coconut oil, which hydrates and soothes skin. If DIY isn’t your style, many brands out there sell non-toxic diaper creams.

It’s also important to make sure that any creams you use have been tested for skin irritation and are not expired. A good rule of thumb is to buy products that have an EWG Verified mark, which shows the cream doesn’t use harmful chemicals. Use their website to search for safe personal care products for your baby.

Baby Powders

While baby powder likely does not help diaper rash, it’s still a popular product for leaving the skin soft and dry. However, talc-based baby powder can contain asbestos, which may cause ovarian cancer

If you must use a powder, opt for a cornstarch based, talc-free baby powder instead. (Make sure to keep the bottle away from your child, as inhaling large amounts is extremely dangerous.)

Safe Diapering Cleanup

Finally, you need to make sure that any products you use to keep you, your baby and the general area clean are nontoxic.

For example, some baby wipes contain formaldehyde, a carcinogen, which may be listed in wet wipe ingredients as “diazolidinyl urea” or “DMDM hydantoin,” among other names. 

Many other chemicals are used in conventional baby wipes in addition to formaldehyde, so it’s best to simply search for specifically nontoxic baby wipes. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website is a great resource, as they research and rate the safety of baby wipes.

If you’d like to simultaneously stay safe and reduce your waste from throwing out disposable wipes, use an organic cotton cloth wipe with a little water to do clean up. For extra hygiene, use a small amount of nontoxic, gentle baby soap.


6 Tips to Help You Choose Safe Clothing for Your Kids

non-toxic tips for babies

From the time your child is a newborn, they’ll spend most of their time in clothes. While clothes keep us warm, keep us clean, and are a fun form of expression, some fabrics hold more risks than others.

This post will guide you through picking safe, nontoxic clothes for your child, so you can feel safe dressing them (or helping them dress themselves!) every day.

What Chemicals Should I Avoid?

Over 8000 chemicals are used in producing clothing. While not all of these chemicals are necessarily toxic, many of them are, and many we don’t even know enough about to know either way.

Some of the more well-known chemicals used in some textiles include:

  • Pesticides (used to grow cotton or other natural fibers)
  • Formaldehyde (a fabric finisher used to create ‘easy-care’ clothing or to reduce creases)
  • AZO dyes (used as a colorant)
  • Chlorobenzene (used to dye polyester clothing)
  • Phthalates (used to soften leathers and rubbers)

These chemicals can have harmful effects. For example, formaldehyde and AZO dyes are known carcinogens and skin irritants, and are even banned in some countries. Formaldehyde can also cause respiratory issues. Phthalates are known to cause disruption of the endocrine (hormone) system. Long term exposure to chlorobenzene can affect the central nervous system.

While serious health effects are unlikely to come from the low exposures we get from clothes, it’s still a good idea to avoid these chemicals. Avoiding these chemicals can also help protect your baby’s sensitive skin from irritation.

The following tips will help you avoid these chemicals and keep your kids safe.

1. Embrace Natural Dyes

As you can see, chemical dyes are one of the biggest health concerns when it comes to clothing. In fact, toxic AZO dyes are used to dye nearly 60-70% of all colored clothing.

The best way to avoid toxic dyes is to buy clothing that uses natural dyes. Many dyes are made from natural plant materials that still create beautiful colors. 

While many brands sell clothing that is made with natural, organic dyes, if you’re feeling creative, you can even take it a step further and make it yourself! Just buy a plain, organic cotton outfit and experiment with different colors by different plant materials, like blueberries, red cabbage and lemon peels.

Not only are these natural dyes safer, but they are also better for the environment, as many synthetic dyes create high levels of water pollution.

2. Buy Certified Organic Textiles

While some natural materials like cotton may be grown using dangerous pesticides that linger in the fibers, opting for organically and sustainably grown cotton is a great solution to avoid these pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

The best way to tell if a natural fiber is safe is if it has a GOTS certification. The Global Organic Textile Standard certifies products that use cotton farmed without pesticides. Many infant clothing brands are GOTS certified. While there are other certification schemes out there, GOTS is a great option, as it also considers the source of the fabric, which promotes ethical labor.

3. Read the Brand’s Chemical Policies

Many companies that have ditched harmful chemicals want to tell you about it! One of the best ways to choose safe clothing for your kids is to read a brand’s website for statements about chemicals in their clothes. 

Even some major brands like Target have started to release statements about their efforts to stop using unsafe chemicals in their products.[1] 

And if the company doesn’t release a statement on chemicals (or lack thereof) used in their clothing? It’s a fairly safe bet to say that they use harmful chemicals.

The Greenpeace campaign “Detox My Fashion” aims to reduce the use of chemicals in clothing that harm human health and the environment. Many brands have signed on to the campaign. You can find a list of these brands in Chapter 4 of Greenpeace’s report on the campaign progress.

4. Buy Vintage

Many clothing companies have started using chemicals only in the last half century or so, so buying older clothes is a great way to find safer clothing.

Buying used clothing also has the added benefit of being an environmentally-friendly choice, as you help reduce the amount of waste produced by buying new clothes.

5. Wash Clothes Before Wearing Them

Washing clothing before your child wears it helps to get rid of some of the irritating chemicals like bleach or textile finishes that may be used in the final steps of making the clothing. This is especially important when it comes to children, as they often have more sensitive skin. 

This isn’t a full solution, as some toxins can stick around through many washes. However, washing clothes does help to remove some of the most irritating chemicals.

Keep these tips in mind next time you buy clothes for your child, and rest easier knowing your child’s health is being protected.


Are Electronic Baby Toys Safe? How to Choose Safe Toys for Your Child

Are Electronic Toys Safe for Babies?

More and more baby toys these days are electronic or have electronic components. While these toys may be exciting, sadly, electronic toys can pose risks to your child. 

The risks associated with electronic toys include:

  • Burns: Electronic toys may overheat because of faulty wiring or circuit boards. This can burn your child.
  • Electric shock: Faulty electrical wiring or plugs can be very dangerous, and can cause electric shock. Electric shock is also a risk when an electronic toy is used near water. As we know, babies and toddlers can be messy, so make sure to keep liquids away from electronic toys.
  • Fire hazards: Overheating of electronic toys, especially poorly built toys, can cause fires.
  • Battery hazards: Batteries in toys can pose risks such as overheating and breaking down into small pieces that cause choking. Choking risks are especially high for babies, who are more likely to chew on toys.
  • Toxic materials: Some electronic toys contain dangerous substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) or polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE). These materials are generally only used inside the toy, so don’t worry – your baby is unlikely to come into contact with them. Of course,  it’s still best to buy toys without these substances!

Electronic toys are also environmentally unfriendly, as they are notoriously difficult to recycle. Additionally, research suggests that relying only on electronic toys, rather than more traditional toys, can harm a baby’s language development.

Here are some tips for choosing safe and stimulating toys for your baby.

1.    Choose Non-Electric Toys

The simplest way to avoid the dangers of electronic toys is simply not to buy them! All our Kleynimals toys are non-electronic and made from safe and nontoxic stainless steel. Our toys provide your baby with all the excitement and stimulation they need without the risks posed by electronic toys.[1] 

If you do choose to use electronic toys, it is best to mix these in with more traditional toys. Exposure to different types of toys, including simpler toys, helps your baby develop a wide variety of skills.

2.    Choose Well-Designed Toys that Comply with Safety Standards

Safety must be included in every step of a toy’s production. If you do choose to buy electronic toys, make sure it is from a trusted manufacturer that takes the necessary steps, such as testing for toxic materials, to ensure the toy is safe and functioning properly.

There are several regulations in place that work to protect you from the dangers of electronic toys. It is important to check that your baby’s toys have been tested for compliance with these consumer protection laws. For example, electronic toys stamped with a “CE marking” (a small CE symbol printed on the toy or packaging) comply with all safety regulations and do not contain harmful materials.

3.    Choose Sturdy Electronic Toys

Make sure your electronic baby toys are well-built and sturdy. Durable toys are less likely to break down, exposing you or your child to any harmful substances that may be used to create the inner electronic parts. Toys that break down are especially concerning for babies, as babies are likely to chew on their toys as part of the teething process.

Durable electronic toys are also less likely to experience overheating or other problems due to degradation. 

4.    Make Sure the Toy Is Used Properly

Electronic toys may have parts that are designed to be used in a specific way (for example, that spin in a certain direction). But we know that babies and children may not use the toy in the way it was designed! This improper use can cause potentially dangerous malfunctions.

If you do choose electronic toys, always watch your child when they are playing with the toy to make sure it is being used as it was intended. While most toy manufacturers put control measures in place that will avoid malfunctions no matter the situation, it is still best to use the toy as it was designed.

All in all, the risks of electronic toys can be safely managed by an attentive guardian. Of course, the most worry-free option is to simply buy non-electronic toys! If you do choose to use electronic baby toys, however, make sure you buy well-made toys of a wide variety to support your child’s development happily and safely.