Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Where's the Corn in TOYS?

Toys. The symbols of an innocent, carefree childhood. America is up in arms about the hidden dangers of lead and melamine in products for young children, but we don't think twice about the sinister dangers lurking beneath the words "All Natural".

Nature is safe. For most folks.

There is an exception, though. As we keep pointing out, for those with allergies, nothing is sacred. Toys and other playthings are no exception.

Things to watch out for:
"Scented"--Many of us uncornies react to scents. Perhaps its the corn based ethanol, or maybe it's something else. Baby powder odors most certainly are applied with a liberal dose of cornstarch. Whatever the cause, scented baby dolls, play food kits, and other tantalizing playthings should send up large red flags.

"All natural, eco-friendly and/or Green"--as in all other areas, these words are more commonly found in unison with corn. Corn is cheap, readily available, and they need to get rid of it somehow. Alright, alright, it does have that nasty habit of actually decomposing quickly in a landfill which I suppose makes it technically eco-friendly, at least in some regards. Corn can be used to make cloth and stuffing for soft rag dolls and plushies; plastic polymers (think plastic tea sets)

Modeling compounds: Corn starch has great chemical properties for things like putty and play-dough. It's also non-toxic (when you aren't allergic to it) and the FDA claims it's hypoallergenic. Currently, FAAN seems to agree. Which makes it an appealing option to most child-friendly art suppliers.

Art supplies: As stated above, as a food product, corn based ingredients appeal to most companies that cater to kids. They feel it's a low allergy risk, and non toxic compared to most petroleum options. Besides, most parents reach for the label proclaiming "All natural!" It simply sells better.

Rattles and Beanbags: Corn kernels make a delightful rattling sound. They also settle well in the hand, and are slightly lighter and cheaper than dried beans. And, they can be used as soothing ice or hot packs. Corn kernels will eventually break down and the dust could, potentially, be problematic.

Cardboard: There are some playhuts and kitchen sets that include cardboard or are entirely designed of cardboard. Be aware that many corrugated cardboards are made with corn material. The dusty sensation many people experience when handling cardboard is corn starch, and when airborne (especially that thick) it can get accidentally ingested, causing GI reactions even for allergy sufferers who aren't contact sensitive.

Soft, malleable vinyl or plastic: these products, like the clothing for certain small pocket-sized dolls, can be coated with corn oil or starch to keep it from cracking. In fact, the manufacturers recommend regular dusting with baby powder or cornstarch. I'm not sure at this time if all toys can be cleaned of the residue, but many manufacturers will send out a coupon or rain check in return for merchandise that makes someone ill (You will probably need to return the product, with or without packaging; at their expense). So, if you react call the company and return the product. It lets them know there's a problem, and lets you get something safer for your household.

Anything meant to be blown up usually has a light dusting of cornstarch on the inside to keep it from attaching to itself; so don't use lung power to inflate balloons, swim rings or beach balls. A thorough rinsing of the outside, in theory, will remove corn starch residue.

Stuffed animals and other cloth: Corn is increasingly popular as an eco-friendly fiber. Watch out for corn stuffing, and soft corn fabric animals and dolls. The upside is, most manufacturers are proud of the corn-derived status. Popular names for corn fiber are amaizing wool (mostly used for mattresses and bedding for the time being) and Ingeo.


Rose said...

Thank you, this post makes me want to cry but thank you! I didn't know about the cardboard boxes. My daughter loves playing with cardboard boxes.

She has a cabbage patch kid her great grandma gave her that is scented. I've already tried washing it to get rid of the scent but it's still there. Maybe I should just see if I can return it. (She's not contact sensitive that I know of... but scents make me nervous for her.)

Anonymous said...

Hi Violet,
do you know if PLA containers are an allergen for people intolerant of corn?

Thanks, Corri

maubs said...

I was alarmed (as a corn-allergic) as I just purchased a mattress. Thank goodness mine's made with non-earth friendly fibers!
The Ingeo page you linked to is absolutely terrifying. They're putting corn in everything! Run for your lives!

Hardware said...