All Teething Toys Are Not Created Equal. Know What is Safe. (Part 1)
In a world full of plastics, wastes, by-products and recalls, today’s parents have a difficult time knowing what is truly natural and safe when choosing teething toys for their babies.
Truth about Silicone
Although very popular with the home based crafting world today, silicone is not a good option for a teething toy. This is because silicone is a plastic made from petroleum and natural gas by-products. Little is actually known about the lasting effects that man-made silicone has on people. More and more, new test results are now revealing that even food grade silicone, once thought of as safe, is actually leeching these harmful by-products leaving your children exposed to harmful toxins and chemicals.
So all wood is safe, right?
Well, this is where it gets a little complicated. Only some kinds of wood are actually safe to use for teething toys.
Certain woods release a harmful toxin called formaldehyde, a naturally occurring chemical some woods release when they are cut down and dry out. The woods that release the highest amount of this harmful toxin are walnut, oak and cherry. These woods are actually unsafe for your child to suck and chew.
The best wood to use for teething toys is rock maple (also known as sugar maple and Eastern White Maple) grown in Canada and the northeast part of USA. Rock maple holds true to its name as it is hard like a rock which means it is not easily dented or dinged. Rock maple is also naturally antibacterial, and does not release formaldehyde. When it is expertly cut and sanded, there is no risk of splintering.
Beech wood is fairly safe and a cheaper alternative to rock maple (about ½ - ¼ the price). But the thing to recognize with beech wood is that it is a softer wood prone to dents and dings, as well as being susceptible to moulds and bacteria.
Choosing a Safe Finish for teething toys
Just as wood is not created equal, finishes are also not created equal.
In fact, some finishes such as linseed oil, are dangerously harmful to your children. We cringe at the amount of handcrafted teething toys available on Etsy and Amazon that are finished with this highly toxic finish. Unknown to most people, linseed oil typically has solvents and turpentine mixed in with it to allow for a faster drying time. It is also the one oil with a chemical makeup that actually encourages mildew growth. (There are those who will argue that 100% linseed oil is safe but 100% linseed oil never dries and always stays sticky, encouraging the mildew growth. Because it never dries and stays sticky on all surfaces it is wiped on, solvents and turpentine has been added to all commercially available linseed oils making each and every one unsafe for use on teething toys.)
Another finish to stay away from is yellow bees wax. Yellow bees wax is unrefined wax that still has honey and bee parts in it (thus the colour and smell). Possible botulism can occur with a yellow bees wax finish on teething toys.
The best type of finish, if you want a finish to be added on a wooden teething toy, is organic coconut oil because it does not go rancid. It has an advertised shelf life of 2-3 years but will last for many, many years after the mandatory expiry date on the package.
White bees wax is one of the good finishes for teething toys. White bees wax has been strained over and over again through unbleached filters (similar to unbleached coffee filters) until the wax runs clear and solidifies pure white with no yellow tinge. When the wax runs clear, there is no more bee parts or honey bits left in it and very little chance of any botulism occurrences.
Other good finishes are food grade oils like olive oil, vegetable oil and canola oil. The one thing to be aware of is that these oils typically have a 6 month life cycle before they go rancid. So when purchasing a teething ring with these oils, make sure to ask how long ago the finish was put on the product (reality is that some products may sit on a shelf for 4 months before being purchased) and how old the bottle was before the finish was applied.
One way to check how fresh an oil coating is on a teething toy when you are shopping in person at a craft fair or market is to do a sniff test. If it smells off, the oil is rancid so it is best not to make the purchase.
Most good and reputable sellers will leave their teething toys unfinished and let the customer have the option of getting the finish added at time of purchase.
Please make sure to also read Part 2 of safe teething toys which discusses shapes, sizes and design safety (Feb 28 post)
- Tags: compliant teething toys handcrafted teething toys handmade teething toys making wooden teethers MDH Toys teething toy teething toy compliance teething toy safety wood teething toy wood teething toys wooden teething ring safety wooden teething rings wooden teething toy wooden teething toy safety
- Miriam Handfield