Skip to Main Content

Designing Safer Children's Products

The Lowell Center formed the Sustainable Children’s Products Initiative in partnership with GreenBlue in 2007 to promote the sustainable design and development of children’s products. 

This project engaged the toy industry supply chain and its stakeholders in a dialogue about how to improve the design and development of children’s products to make them more sustainable, with a particular focus on reducing the use of toxic chemicals. 

Toxic Exposures in children a Significant Concern due to:

  • Higher metabolic rate and greater surface area to weight ratio than adults
  • Immaturity of organ systems
  • Rapid growth and development of organs and tissues such as bone and brain
  • Children drink more fluids, eat more food, and breathe more air per kilogram of body weight. Young children’s frequent hand to mouth activity creates a pathway for toxic chemicals in toys and other products to enter the body.
  • Children receive multiple low dose exposures daily from a variety of products with which they come into contact, in addition to chemicals in household dust and the outdoor environment. 

Under current regulations the US Consumer Product Safety Commission restricts only fourteen chemicals in toys, including eight heavy metals and six phthalates.

Definition of Sustainable Children's Products

As a long-term compass to guide product design, the stakeholder group agreed on the following definition for sustainable children’s products:

  • Made from materials that are safe and healthy throughout their lifecycle
  • Manufactured using clean production methods, under humane working conditions
  • Meet market criteria for cost and performance
  • Maximize the use of renewable and recyclable materials and are designed for disassembly, recycling and remanufacture
  • Optimize the efficiency of materials, energy and water use in production and consumption
  • “Appropriately durable” - products designed for long term use can be repaired and reused and products designed for one time use are biodegradable
  • Sourced, manufactured, used, and recycled using renewable energy

Download the report Green Toys Inc. – Striving to Make Sustainable Products