Mattel, the world’s largest toymaker (think hourglass Barbies and those fun-to-chew-on Fisher-Price figures), has announced that it will begin a major push to make its plastic toys from more environmentally friendly, organically based materials such as oils and starches. The new materials would replace polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and a controversial group of chemicals called phthalates used in soft plastic toys. Enviro and consumer groups contend that the plastics have been linked to health problems such as liver and kidney damage. Mattel and most other major toy companies last year pledged to eliminate the use of phthalates in mouth toys intended for children under 3, though they deny that phthalates are at all dangerous. Greenpeace hailed Mattel’s move, which came just as the European Union was preparing to declare an emergency ban on phthalates in mouth toys. The National Environmental Trust and several other enviro and consumer groups yesterday released a report indicating that phthalates are still found in most mouth toys in the U.S., aside from teethers, despite pledges by the companies to the contrary.