It is important to know and understand the warnings and compliance disclaimers that come on your children’s toys. Understanding what those compliance disclaimers mean - and avoiding toys with them - in favor of toys with all-natural materials like CUBOS’ stain-free hardwood and Montessori materials - leads to better health in the longer term for your child. Avoiding toys that contain VOCs and other toxic substances such as:
Without knowing what warnings and disclaimers to look for can be a challenge. Here, we will discuss what are VOCs, how to check if the toy is compliant for formaldehyde, and how to pick toys that are made from safe, non-toxic natural materials.
What Are VOCs?
Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products, cleaning, disinfecting, and hobby products. The gasses emitted by these organic chemicals can cause a build-up indoors. These gasses are called volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) and are released into the environment, which can lead to nose and throat discomfort, headaches, and allergic skin reactions.
The Norwegian Institute for Air Research found that ‘squishies’, the toys made from soft polyurethane foam, had between 12 to 30 VOCs per toy. When children play with these toys, they regularly do this in an enclosed environment where VOCs build up over time. VOCs can be found in the following children’s toys:
- Tents and tunnels
- Soft plastic
- Polyurethane squishies
- Wooden toys
Parents should focus on handmade toys over mass-produced toys that cut corners with VOC-emitting material. Toys made with all-natural materials are environmentally sustainable and less likely to cause irritation and skin reactions.
Compliant for Formaldehyde
In 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a national rule that required all products produced or imported into the United States to be labeled as CARB 2 Compliant or Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Title VI compliant.
Formaldehyde is one of the most common VOCs and is a known human carcinogen. The California Air Resources Board established a rule stating that products that emit formaldehyde, including furniture, picture frames, and children’s toys, can be sold if the VOC level is under certain limits.
Products sold in the United States that are compliant for formaldehyde under these limits are labeled as CARB ACTCM (ATCM) Phase II or CARB 2 Compliant. This means that toys, wood materials, and other products that have this label emit some amount of VOCs into the air. CARB 2 Compliant means the product has been deemed to have formaldehyde in ‘safe limits’. Parents still need to be mindful of this label and avoid products that have it if they want to reduce the amount of VOCs their child is exposed to.
So What Does This Mean?
If the compliance level is 6 times stronger than what is permitted, the individual would experience significant irritation. If it’s 20 times stronger, the individual would experience severe irritation in the lung and physical illness. The compliant level of formaldehyde under CARB 2 is 0.05ppm, and the exposure limit of formaldehyde is 0.3ppm.
The standard for compliance is just in reference to what is released into the air from the product itself, because that is how the materials are tested. What happens if the material is in a child’s toy and the child is exposed orally, through chewing/biting? California’s 93120 Phase 2 & EPA TSCA Title VI Compliant for Formaldehyde disclaimer does not mention protection from potential consumption.
If a product is marked with this disclaimer, does that mean it’s unsafe? No, it just means that the product is meeting the gas emission requirements - but it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe around young children who like to explore with their mouths. It’s simply not worth the risk.