I spent a lot of my time with my nieces in the last two months. Ana is 6, Ema is 2. There is nothing more beautiful than spending time with these innocent but naughty girls, understanding how they see the world around them and bringing that beauty of childhood back to me. Life indeed, can be a playground!
I noticed that they are playing with way too many toys and most of them are made of plastics. It kind of shocked me and I wanted to protest. I will not allow something like that. I mean, I am still their aunt, right? I knew, it is not really my decision what they play with but at least I could reduce the amount of those kind of toys whenever they are around me.
For example, some toys like plastic soldiers, baby dolls are responsible for water and air pollution because they leach or discharge hazardous toxins. We are taking so much care of our kids but then they are playing with toys made of PVC plastic, which is the deadliest plastic nowadays. It is typically mixed with another noxious chemical, phthalate, to make the finished play thing flexible rather than rigid. Two phthalates commonly used in plastic toy production are DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate) and DNIP (Di-isonoyl phthalate). It causes cancer, liver and kidney disease risks, baby girls who develop breast prematurely. The fact is that kid’s bodies are tinier, so this deadly chemicals race through their nervous systems and concentrate in their organs faster. Since their brains and the other parts of their bodies are still growing, higher concentrations of these toxins cause more harm than in fully developed system. Not to mention that kids are putting any and everything into their mouths so the toxins from plastic are easily consumed but not quickly removed.
Plastic battery – operated toys are a double –edge sword of polluting toxins because batteries cannot be recycled.
But then I noticed one more thing. My nieces were actually playing more with “toys”. Different materials and stuffs around them which are in every household are giving them a real life experience and it seems they are enjoying it the most. Baby dolls and plastic cars are just for a while, but I saw these girls playing for 2 hours with the real kitchen material or with cobs outside in the nature. Of course it was the best to have fun with what I was doing – helping me with making cookies, hang laundry or sweep the floor. They love it if they can do the same as we adults do.
Wooden toys are by far more environmentally friendly and a better choice for children and the Earth. Unpainted, unvarnished, solid wood toys last longer than plastic toys, need no batteries, and encourage kids to use creativity and imagination to create play. Ema got a gift from India –a wooden elephant family and right now this is her main toy.
You can reduce or eradicate plastic pollution by buying fewer plastic toys, or recycling these types of toys rather than disposing them off. Write to your congressional representatives and urge them to lobby for tougher labelling laws so consumers will be aware of deadly plastic in toys.
Plastic toys do pollute, but with increased consumer awareness and cooperation from plastic toy manufacturers, the effects of this type of pollution can be reduced. The best and most sustainable response to “How do toys pollute the environment?” is humankind’s willingness to place stewardship over price and convenience.
Katja Polc, Vatavaran volunteer