Updated 05 May 2014

Are your child's toys toxic?

Your child's toys, bottles, cute plate and sippy cup set – what are they actually made of? They could contain a dangerous chemical known as phthalates.


Babies put everything into their mouths, but your child's toys, bottles, cute plate and sippy cup set – what are they actually made of? 

A dangerous class of chemicals, known as phthalates, was being used in the manufacture of soft vinyl dummies, bottle teats and teethers as lately as 1998.  Since then, the use of phthalates in such products has been banned or limited by countries such as Canada, the US and Australia, but is there any control over the manufacture or sale of products containing phthalates in SA? 

Phthalates: the dangers

  • Impact on male fertility

Men whose anogenital distance (AGD)  is shorter than the median length - around 52 mm - have seven times the chance of being sub-fertile compared to those with a longer AGD.  AGD, measured from the anus to the underside of the scrotum, is linked to male fertility, including semen volume and sperm count. Previous studies, published in 2005 and 2008, looked at the possible link between mothers who were exposed to chemicals called phthalates during pregnancy and the AGD of their infant and toddler sons.

  • Delayed or early puberty

Phthalates were one of several chemical classes found in a wide range of consumer products that may lead to delayed or early puberty in girls and increase their risk for health problems later in life in, found a US study.

Phenols, phthalates and phytoestrogens are known as endocrine disrupters because they interfere with the body's hormone system. They're also found in many consumer products such as nail polishes, cosmetics, perfumes, lotions and shampoos, and some are used in plastics or as coatings on medications or nutritional supplements to make them time-released.  

Find out whether your child's toys are toxic, and what to look out for when buying new products.

Read more:

What price pretty?

Genital measurement linked to fertility

(Joanne Hart, Health24, updated May 2014)


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