Canada has added its voice to the growing concern over the use of phthalates in children's toys.
After a year long review, the group Health Canada has concluded that children weighing under 8.2 kg who suck on products such as teethers and rattles made with di-isononyl phthalate (DINP) for more than three hours a day run the risk of liver enlargement or kidney scarring.
The group has urged Canadian retailers to remove products made with DINP from the shelves as a precaution. This is an important move, but critics say Health Canada has not gone far enough in informing parents of the many risks of soft, chewy toys. These include the lead and cadmium used in the manufacture of children's soft toys, to help stabilise the vinyl. Ingestion of these can result in brain and nervous system damage (in the case of lead) and cancer and kidney disease (in the case of cadmium).
Health Canada insists, however, that its studies do not indicate that children can suck these chemicals out of soft toys and thus children are not in any immediate danger. Sweden, Denmark and Austria have already completely banned phthalates in infant toys, and the EC is considering a similar ban (Lancet, 1998; 352: 1764).