Monday, June 13, 2011

Legos, Mega Bloks & plastics

I recently bought some MegaBloks at a garage sale for $3. I'd been thinking about Legos for awhile now but never could buy it because I wasn't sure about the plastic. The purchase of Mega Bloks made me do some research.

When Little Thumper was born, I was paranoid about plastics for a bit. But after awhile, seeing all these other parents with cool cheap plastic toys, and their kids seemingly fine, I relaxed my standards a bit. And we started buying some plastic toys. Recently I read Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax and it's made me stressed out and anxious once again. One of his reasons for the way boys are now adays is the phthalates that are in plastics. And it has a bigger effect on boys because endocrine disruptors are feminizing.

Greenpeace has a great breakdown of plastics in order of toxicity. I'll expand on them a bit.

1) Polyvinyl chloride (PVC #3) and other halogenated plastics

2) Polyurethane (PU), Polystyrene/styrofoam (PS #6), Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS #7), Polycarbonate (PC #7)

3) Polyethylene-terephthalate (PET #1), high/low density polyethylene (HDPE #2, LDPE #4), Polypropylene (PP #5)

PET is the one which Sax says leaches. Though there are arguments about PET being safe or not. Some say maybe PET doesn't leach but it can get contaminated if it's made from recycled materials.

4) Biobased plastics

Apparently, Polystyrene (PS #6) and ABS are used to make toys.

In a nutshell:
  • Use #2, #4, #5 plastics
  • ABS Plastic probably okay because it withstands high heat (which is when plastic leaches?) Just don't burn it as in liquid and vapor form it's pretty toxic. Legos are made from ABS. Mega Bloks are made from polystyrene.
  • Green Toys have plastic blocks made from HDPE #2 plastic. But the reviews say they don't interlock well.
  • Most Japanese bento boxes they sell here have #5 containers with #1 lid. This is why I won't be buying them.
I'm thinking I will get rid of the Mega Bloks since it's made of #6 plastic as well as most plastic toys in the house because Astroboy likes to chew on things.   Legos are a necessary evil because no wooden blocks interlock that I can find. And I couldn't find any research papers that says ABS plastic leaches. 

Interestingly, it's not just the plastic you should worry about. I found an article about Mega Bloks trying to prevent a company from publishing results that showed their blocks have lead in them. Healthy Kids doesn't list them as having lead anymore. But still, doesn't sound like a good business.