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Bringing up baby with safe and green toys

  • Story Highlights
  • Parents are more vigilant about toys after safety recall
  • Doctor tells parents to examine materials and choose natural toys without finish
  • Toys and baby items can contain phthalates, PVC and bisphenol-A
  • Recycling symbols on plastic toys with number 1, 2, 4 or 5 mean no chemicals
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By Judy Fortin
CNN Medical Correspondent
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- After last year's massive toy recall, Stacy Duran isn't taking any chances when shopping for toys this holiday season.

Neddie Bishop looks for safe, environmentally friendly toys for her 1-year-old nephew.

Neddie Bishop looks for safe, environmentally friendly toys for her 1-year-old nephew.

"I'm looking for toys that meet all the safety standards," said Duran, 41, of Atlanta, Georgia.

The mother of a 3-year-old girl, Duran has done her homework. She's spent many hours online looking for products that are not only safe but environmentally friendly.

"I find that some of the safer toys are more expensive, but it's worth it to me," Duran said. "I will pay more to ensure that my daughter is not playing with something that contains harmful plastics or harmful lead in the paint."

Duran isn't the only parent who has become more vigilant about what type of products she's buying for her children.

Dr. Alan Greene, a professor of pediatrics at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, has some advice about choosing safe and organic toys.

In his book "Raising Baby Green, The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care," he tells parents to take the time to examine the materials used in the toys.

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"Choose natural toys, and those might be toys made out of solid wood, especially if it's not finished or has a non-toxic finish," Greene recommended. "Toys that are made out of fiber, such as cotton, especially organic cotton, wool or hemp, or toys made out of bamboo can be really nice choices."

He warned parents to beware of wooden toys made from pressed wood or particle board.

"Some of those will have toxic substances in the glue," he noted. "Unless you know it is safe, I would skip that this year." Video Watch more on choosing baby-friendly toys »

Greene said toxics can be found in certain plastic toys, too. He worries the most about toys and baby items containing phthalates, PVC and bisphenol-A.

He advised parents to look for recycling symbols on plastic toys. "If it has recycling symbol number 1, 2, 4 or 5, that means it does not have those chemicals in there," he said.

Greene's warnings don't stop at the toy box. He's an advocate of using organic products in everything from the kitchen to the bathroom to a baby's nursery.

In his book, he makes the case for eco-diapers, baby clothes and linens made from organic cotton. Depending on where you live, many of these items might be difficult to find.

Greene also concedes that they may be more expensive, but if he had to spend his money on one "green" item, he said, it would be an organic crib mattress.

"The conventional crib mattresses are often made of polyurethane foam, which is soft but is basically solid petroleum," he said. "It could put off gasoline-like fumes, and because it could be flammable, you have to put in flame retardants, which may not be good for the child either."

Greene stressed the importance of feeding children organic food.

Given the cost difference, he recommended that parents focus their budget on "five of the biggest offenders for pesticide and fertilizer residue: milk, beef, potatoes, apples and peanut butter."

Dr. Jennifer Shu, an Atlanta-based pediatrician and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, agreed that it does make sense to limit serving foods grown with pesticides, but she cautioned moms and dads not to go overboard.

"What I tell parents is, when you're choosing the organic types of products, look for things that your child will be ingesting or eating," Shu stated. "Look for things that will be absorbed into her skin, such as lotion or creams.

"Items that are going to come into brief contact or aren't going inside the body are going to be less important.

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"While they may be better for the environment," she added, "they made not be safer or any healthier for children."

Mothers like Stacy Duran have a lot to think about when it comes to deciphering expert advice. But she knows one thing for sure: "My bottom line is my daughter and what is what is safest for her."

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