Lead in Toys: What Every Parent Needs To Know This Holiday Season

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The Start of the Christmas Shopping Season in PennsylvaniaThe holidays shine a light on a serious problem that exists year round: lead in toys. The consumer protection group USPIRG has released its 29th Annual Trouble in Toyland report, which lists 24 potentially dangerous toys carried in stores now. Several of those toys contain toxins, including lead. A Badge Play Set manufactured by Greenbrier International was found to contain excessive levels of lead that measured above 110 ppm in some components. Children’s products should not contain more than 90 ppm lead, according to federal consumer product safety rules. But in reality, no amount of lead is acceptable.

Four other toys were found to contain excessive levels of toxins:

  • Dora the Explorer backpack
  • Leopard pattern rubber duck
  • Hello Kitty Bracelet and Hair Clips Accessory Set
  • Jake and the Neverland Pirates Tambourine

safer toys in stores todayThe good news is that the toy industry appears to be more aware of the dangers of lead in toys. This year, of 30 toys recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, only one was cited for a lead violation. That’s a far cry from 2008, when 19 out of 172 recalled toys contained excessive lead content. While this news is promising, we still need to be diligent in ensuring the safety of our children. Here are some tips you can follow to protect your child from lead poisoning caused by toys:

Know which toys might have a lead problem

toy cars in toy storeLead is typically found in soft plastic toys or in toy paint. With so many toys being manufactured overseas where safety standards are less stringent, there’s a high potential of risk. Vintage and antique toys may also contain unacceptable levels of lead. And by “antique,” we don’t mean ancient. Toys made in the 1970s and 1980s have been shown to contain high lead levels.

Can I test a toy for lead?

fisher-price little peopleOnly a certified lab can test a toy for lead accurately. Do-it-yourself kits are available, but they do not indicate how much lead is present, and their reliability at detecting low levels of lead is questionable. You can also use a handheld X-ray fluorescent (XRF) analyzer, which is used by professional environmental inspectors.

Just how hazardous are old toys?

antique transformers toyMany of us played with classics toys as kids, and we sometimes to pass them on to our children during the holidays. But be careful. Tamara Rubin, Executive Director and Founder of the Lead Safe America Foundation, and Director/Producer of the upcoming documentary MisLEAD: America’s Secret Epidemic, has tested a number of older toys with an XRF gun. The numbers are astounding – a 1980’s Transformer, made in Taiwan by Bandai, contained 108,800 ppm lead. When she tested a vintage Fisher-Price Parking Garage, the yellow plastic contained 1,538 ppm lead, and the white plastic had 422 ppm lead. Even Fisher-Price Little People from the 1970’s tested as high as 1,466 ppm lead!

Check for Recalls

car play setIf you are unsure if a toy contains lead, check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website to see if they have issued a recall at www.saferproducts.gov. This will ensure that you are not exposing your child to potential hazards.

I’m concerned that my child has been exposed to lead. What should I do?

If you suspect that your child has been exposed to lead, either from a toy, or a home, or school environment, the first step is to pinpoint the source of the lead so it can be removed or sealed off. If lead is contained in a toy, discard the item immediately. If you suspect lead in your home or at school, an independent environmental testing company, like RTK Environmental, can test to tell you exactly where the lead hazard is located, and what steps you need to take to protect yourself and your family. Next, speak with a doctor and have your child’s blood tested. Your health care provider can recommend treatment if your child has been exposed to lead.

The most important thing you can do is to take action! The longer a child is exposed to lead, the more permanent damage he will suffer. To read the full report and get tips to help you shop for safer toys, visit Trouble in Toyland.

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