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Phthalates, Plasticisers and Toxic Toys Project

PhthalatesResearch showed that chemicals used in plastic toys and childcare articles could damage the reproductive systems of young children. Hundreds of phthalate-containing toys and other childcare articles are sold in South Africa every day.

What is Phthalates?

Phthalates are plasticisers used to soften plastic articles such as bath rubber duckies and infant teethers. These chemicals are also widely used in medical devices and other household articles. Soft plastic toys are made of two things: plastic (such as polyvinyl chloride/PVC) and plasticiser. Manufacturers add plasticisers to prevent toys from being rock hard.

How are you exposed to Phthalates

Children are particularly at risk for exposure to the potentially toxic chemicals in plastic. The liver enzymes of children are not fully developed, which means their bodies are less efficient at getting rid of toxins. Children generally also have more direct contact with plasticisers, for example, and toddlers often put soft plastic toys in their mouths. We are particularly concerned about toys aimed at children under the age of three. South Africans have no way of knowing whether toys sold locally contain phthalates, as it is not mandatory to indicate its presence on labels. Phthalates are one of the main contaminants in China and we import many of our toys from there.

How to avoid Phthalates

We owe it to our children to get the “bad” chemicals in plastic articles banned. While we wait for that, we advise concerned parents to take certain steps to avoid these chemicals.

Progress made by us

In August 2008, CANSA called on our government to ban these potentially toxic toys. Read more…  But to date, no action has been taken.


Get involved

  • Ask a question or make a comment regarding our research in the box at the bottom of this page.
  • Click here to make a secure online donation to support this research project or make a direct deposit to ABSA Bank, Account: CANSA Research, number: 4079965964, Branch: 632005, Reference: Type B Research – Phthalates and Toxic Toys Project
  • Read more about CANSA research here.
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