Many of us are aware of the dangers of PVC. Made from the flammable gas vinyl chloride and then often combined with phthalates, PVC poses a threat from its inception to its afterlife in the landfill. We work hard to locate baby products made from safer materials, only to have them arrive in PVC packaging. So, the question arises: should we be concerned about contamination of our BPA- and PVC-free products from its own packaging?
The project Healthy Toys, of the non-profit Ecology Center, provides us with some answers. The program was initiated to address the failures of our current governmental system to regulate chemicals in products. They test the outer layers of various children’s products for hidden dangers such as lead and chlorine using a handheld x-ray fluorescence (XRF) device
I quickly noticed that several teethers and pacifiers I knew to be PVC-free actually tested at moderate levels for chlorine/PVC. This is worrisome because those products go straight into the mouth of a baby. So I immediately contacted Mike Schade, the PVC Campaign Coordinator for the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ). I asked Mike his thoughts about the possibility of a non-PVC product becoming contaminated after being packaged in PVC.
Mike’s response was helpful as always: “I haven’t heard of any studies that looked at whether or not additives in PVC packaging, such as phthalates, lead, cadmium, or organotins, could migrate out and attach itself to a toy. We do know that additives in PVC food packaging or wrap will typically migrate into the food.” He did feel there may be a chance that the chemicals could transfer.
Thankfully, PVC packaging is slowly being phased out across the country. Corporations like IKEA, Target and Sassy have committed to eliminating PVC packaging in favor of safer alternatives. Many eco-minded companies have taken care to avoid PVC in packaging from the very start. Manufacturers like Thinkbaby, Green to Grow, KidBasix, Silikids and Natursutten use either glass, paper/cardboard, polypropylene, polyethylene or polyethylene terephthalate (PET), or no packaging at all.
Unfortunately, there is no way to tell by looking at a product if it is packaged in PVC. But Healthy Toys has already proven that chlorine from a PVC package can transfer to at least the surface of a toy. I suggest thoroughly washing all new toys housed in firm, clear packaging with hot soapy water and distilled vinegar. Also follow the manufacturers directions for boiling new pacifiers (skip this step for teethers and toys, as they won’t handle it well). In the meantime, we’ll watch for more definitive research to be completed by organizations like Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse (TPCH).