Confronting Toxic Toys

This Disney Princess Bag contains medium levels of lead and chlorine/PVC according to Ecology Center ratings.©

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, a coalition of public interest groups led by Ann Arbor, Michigan’s Ecology Center has made public a recently compiled database showing how some 1,200 popular children’s toys and products stack up in terms of lead content and the presence of other harmful chemicals. Concerned parents can look up the toys on their kids" wish lists at the Ecology Center’s website.

The testing revealed that one in six items tested contain unsafe levels of lead, a known neurotoxin linked to behavioral problems and decreased IQ. Buyers beware: some of the highest lead concentrations were found in kids" jewelry—one in three pieces tested had lead levels exceeding Consumer Product Safety Commission standards—and items made of soft plastic/vinyl, where lead can be used as a stabilizer.

"We are trying to help people make good decisions for products they might want to avoid and show them what are some products that test clean," Ecology Center Campaign Director Jeff Gearhart told reporters. Besides the Ecology Center, the coalition behind the creation and publication of the database includes the Oregon Environmental Council, Oakland’s Center for Environmental Health and the Boston-based Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow.

Toy industry representatives say the findings are misleading and may unnecessarily scare parents away from safe toys. Congress might have the final say, as it takes up legislation this term that calls for a ban on lead from children’s products, including metal jewelry and vinyl goods. But for this holiday season, responsible parents everywhere will be consulting

Sources: Healthy Toys; Washington Post: Toy-Safety Data