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.


Anonymous said...

Really appreciate this post. We too are trying to limit our daughter's exposure to plastics, focusing on #2, #4 and #5 or ideally stainless steel, silicon, or wood where possible. She's getting older now and I'd like to get some blocks for her. I've tried to contact Mega Bloks but they haven't responded to my e-mails...appreciate knowing that they are polystyrene.

I agree, ABS sounds better than PS and the cost of Green Toys is just too high (with very little variety). May have to just go with Duplo/Lego but would like a cost effective #2,4,5 option.


Smurfette said...

I think from my research it's okay to get ABS plastic. I couldn't find any research that says ABS plastics leach. It isn't good under very high heat. But if you make sure that that doesn't happen, it should be okay.

slacker said...

Thank you for posting this - I have been looking all over for info on what these are made out of & am having trouble finding anything. We were just given a bunch of these for our (almost) 9 month old. We will keep them and only introduced if/when she stops eating all of her toys :)

Anonymous said...

We are doing a research report on Lego/Megabloks for 8th grade homeschool. We can't find any information about megabloks either. Your blog is the most info in one place that kinda gives us direction. That is very disconcerting, frankly. Most of what we are learning about the 2 companies is that you absolutely get what you pay for as far as quality ingredients and quality company policies in this instance.

Julia Dawn said...

Thank you so much for this post! We are a plastic free home with montessori influence but just found a nice set of legos from salvation army. I couldn't figure out why my son was reacting to them until I read the blocks and realized some were mega bloks. That is when I googled and found your post. Thanks again. It looks like I have a huge bin of blocks to go through... I am still on the lookout for wooden tinker toys to replace them but we will see when that happens :)