Plastic baby dolls have been the leading play toy for many years. You and your kids may have had a favorite doll. Can you remember if it was made of plastic?
These plastic dolls can be found in most daycare settings, and there are often several in each class.
They are developmental, foster creativity, and encourage natural role play. Children typically imitate their caregiver’s behavior by imagining themselves as “mother” or “dad.”
However, many of the plastic dolls available in the shops are made of polyvinyl chloride, which is dangerous to children health who play with them every day.
Read on to learn more about safer doll alternatives for home and daycare.
What is polyvinyl chloride (PVC)?
PVC plastic, commonly called “vinyl” (not all is PVC), is an odorless, versatile plastic. It is found in many consumer goods, including raincoats and rubber boots, shoe soles, curtains and blinds, upholstery and seat covers, shower curtains, furniture, carpet backing, plastic bags, inflatable pools, and floating rafts, beach balls, dolls, and bath books. Toys (Rubber Ducks!) and Chewing Toys (Toddler Rings).
Why should I be concerned?
During PVC production, use, and disposal, people might be exposed to the toxic chemicals present, such as mercury, phthalates, and dioxins.
Heavy metals such as lead are added to PVS during the molding to help stabilize the plastic.
Lead is a well-known neurotoxin that can be detrimental to cognitive abilities, especially in young children (see EHCC Fact Sheet for details).
Moreover, Heavy metals such as lead and mercury cannot be destroyed by incineration.
Therefore, these hazardous heavy metals are released into the environment during PVC recycling.
PVC-related health concerns are of particular concern to children due to increased PVC exposure in toys and clothing.
Vinyl chloride, the main component of PVC, is a known carcinogen (carcinogen).
Other health problems with PVC include congenital disabilities, liver dysfunction, and developmental and endocrine disorders, leading to decreased sperm count, testes, and premature puberty.
PVC often contains phthalates, a class of chemicals used to make plastic products more flexible.
The adverse health effects associated with phthalate exposure include hormonal disturbances, developmental and reproductive problems, asthma, premature birth, and the development of certain cancers.
How can a baby be exposed to PVC on the doll?
Young children prefer soft-mouth plastics, which may contact PVC if swallowed. Chewing on plastic toys can cause tiny (often microscopic) pores to form in the plastic, allowing chemicals in the toy to get into a child’s mouth.
PVC can be released even during normal wear and tear. Small tears in new or old dolls can release toxic chemicals from PVC. When trying to understand “gassing,” it helps to think about the very distinct smell of fresh tea.
This odor, which is also present in new plastic dolls, is how gases and chemicals used to make dolls or automobiles are released into the environment.
The best way to keep children safe from the harmful effects of vinyl dolls is to remove them altogether.
If you can’t dispose of all your plastic dolls, the next best thing to do is remove them from the nursery, as this age group is most likely to wear toys.
What should I look for?
To differentiate between the different types of plastic on the market, products sometimes have a small symbol, usually located on the underside of the plastic. The numbers inside the three triangles indicate the plastic used to make this piece.
One way to actively search to avoid PVC products is to look for recycling code #3.
Be careful if you see the number “3” inside the triangle! This product is made of PVC and may be harmful to your health.
What are some safer alternatives?
There are 100% PVC and phthalate-free options, such as dolls made from natural materials like cotton and wool. These dolls are often machine washable, making them easier to clean and safer for your baby.
There are many benefits to using PVC- and phthalate-free dolls, including children’s health and the environment, but it’s likely a more expensive option.
How often should the cloth doll be washed?
The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Childhood remove all toys children talk about once they have played with them.
We recommend putting it away and disinfecting it at the end of the day. Cloth toys should be washed once a week.
However, if there is dirt or soiling, the cloth toy must be removed from the room and returned to the toy rotation after washing.
It is essential that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and disinfecting all toys and follow the standards outlined in your state or departmental medical policy.