Every day, your child plays with toys, your baby feeds from a bottle, your toddler drinks from a sippy cup and eats from a plastic plate…but have you ever thought, how safe are these products for my child?

With new technology in the manufacture of baby and children’s products, a new risk has been introduced with harmful man-made materials that can cause serious illnesses and health problems later in life.

Over the last few years, we have seen recalls of products which have had lead, BPA, cadmium and other toxic chemicals which have posed huge threats for our next generation’s health, but what are the laws to regulate the manufacture of baby and kid’s products in a safer manner?

In Canada, Europe and the USA, strict laws limiting the use of potentially hazardous chemicals known as phthalates in toys and other children's products have been imposed. Since 1998, phthalates have been voluntarily removed by manufacturers from soft vinyl pacifiers, teethers, rattles, baby bottle nipples and other products intended to be mouthed by children and infants in an effort to make the products safer for children. Manufacturers can still use phthalates in other consumer products such as cosmetics, cleaning products, shower curtains and cars.

Australia has also recently banned several unsafe products under its new Consumer Laws which came into effect in January 2011, establishing a National Consumer Product Safety System, imposing laws and standards to protect the public from unsafe products and the use of toxic materials therein.

Unfortunately, in South Africa, we have very standards that deal with the safety of toys and children’s toys and although there are basic guidelines set out by the SABS, these are not enforced and plenty of unsafe products reach the consumers who are unaware of the potential dangers posing the use of these products.

Products that potentially contain toxic substances include plastic and wooden toys, jungle gyms, paint, plastic bibs, play-dough, playground equipment, baby bottles and sippy cups and other unassuming products for children’s use.

Although the SA Minister of Health has put a directive at the end of 2010 requesting that retailers become BPA compliant as well as to put pressure on their suppliers to become BPA-compliant, safety laws have still yet to be enforced and it is up to the parents to ensure the safety of their children.

It is strongly recommended that parents learn to read instructions on toys more carefully, buy brands that you can trust and look for BPA-free signs.

Written by Ally Cohen, owner of 4AKid – Putting Child Safety First and Child Safety Advisor of


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