Do you know what chemicals are lurking in your child’s toy chest? Or perhaps under your Christmas Tree? With recent recalls of toys containing lead and the government not regulating the type and amounts of chemicals contained in our children’s toys except for lead paint, is it safe to buy toys anymore?
In answer to this question, The Ecology Center, along with the Washington Toxics Coalition and other leading environmental health groups across the country, recently released its test findings of the safety of 1200 toys. The Ecology Center has created the website, HealthyToys.org, which contains the database, resources, and other important information to help us wade through the toy labyrinth. If this isn’t an early Christmas present for parents, then I don’t what is.
The database is comprised of 1200 toys tested by the Organization using a testing methodology of both a hand held x-ray fluorescent (XFR) device by Innov-X Systems and non-XFR methods to detect such harmful chemicals as lead, cadmium, chlorine, arsenic, mercury, tin, and antimony. The database details the methodology used for each toy.
Fisher-Price Amazing Hippo with a rating showing low levels of chemicals
They used a rating system to determine the safety of the toys.For a quick glance at the toy database, see the list of 146 toys detected to have no chemicals of concern, and worse toys, which list is based upon the use of the XFR methodology. Of the 1200 products tested, 35% of those products contained lead that exceeded the above recommendation. The Organization found that children’s metal jewelry tended to have more lead than other children’s products.
In addition, to the findings of lead, the database also contains information about other harmful chemicals contained in toys such as cadmium, PVC, and mercury.Listed below is a short synopsis of how these chemicals impact our bodies according to the Organization.I urge you to click on the hyper links to find out more information about these chemicals and where they can be found in your children’s products.
Lead:Lead has been linked to brain developmental delays, reduced IQ, shorter attention span and learning issues. According to the Organization, there is no safe level of lead.
Cadmium: This chemical is a known human carcinogen and has been linked to kidney and lung damage.In addition, it can have an adverse effect on motor skills and behavior.
Chloride (PVC): This chemical contains phthalates, which makes the PVC more flexible. Phthalates are known to cause developmental reproductive issues especially in boys and linked to a contributor to asthma.
Mercury:All forms of mercury can be hazardous to the kidneys and inorganic mercury is toxic to the nervous system.
Arsenic: Inorganic and organic arsenic have different toxicities.Inorganic arsenic was found in some of the toys.It has been linked to lung, skin, and bladder cancer, skin irritation, skin color changes, blood disorders, cardiovascular disease and hormone disruption.
Other Chemicals (antimony, chromium, tin and bromine.):
Antimony: Depending on the form and level of exposure, antimony trioxide has been classified as a carcinogen in the State of California and possible carcinogen by the European Union and International Agency for Research.
Chromium: Depending on its state of the element, which Cr (IV) being highly toxic, this form (Cr IV) may cause birth defects, reproductive problems, and reduced disease resistance.The XRF is unable to detect which form is in the toys, but detects that the element is present.
Bromium: A component of a family of fire-retardant chemicals. The XFR can not confirm which type of bromine is present in the toys; however, detection of higher levels may indicate the presence of PBDEs or other brominated flame retardants. Studies have shown that PBDE builds up in people and can affect brain development, may also cause thyroid issues, reproductive problems, birth defects and DecaBDE, the most widely used form of PBDEs, is classified as ” a possible human carcinogen” by the US EPA.
Tin: Based on the level of exposure and type of tin, exposure to high levels of inorganic tin may cause stomach aches, liver and kidney problems, and anemia.Organic forms of tin are believed to be toxic at low levels.
After reading this list, you must be wondering will it ever be safe to buy another toy. David Garfield, Director of the Ecology Center, was recently interviewed by E.D. Hill on the FoxNews show, American Pulse.In Ms. Hill’s interview with Mr. Garfield, she brought up the converse argument that can be made by the toy industry.Is the testing done by the Organization accurate versus a salvia test to see what impact the chemicals have on our children?In response to her query, he responded:
“We don’t want to alarm parents with this news.We want to give people information to know what is in their products.We are not trying to give people the impression that just because a chemical is in a product that means that their child is going to be exposed.They might be.It is possible.From my point of view, there shouldn’t be toxic chemicals in toys.We shouldn’t have lead, mercury, or cadmium put in toys.It makes absolutely no sense at all.”
My take on his comment:
Amen to that.It absolutely makes no sense to me too as to why such harmful chemicals are in our children’s toys. Isn’t it about time that our government starts regulating the use of toxic chemicals in all of our products? To continue to allow “possible carcinogenic” products to be used in the market is unbelievable to me.
According to E.D. Hill during her show of America Pulse, only 23 out of 400 plus companies have recalled their products in light of the new database findings. When Ms. Hill asked Mr. Garfield if the toy companies “blew off” the findings, Mr. Garfield responded in defense of the toy companies saying they want to do the right thing; however, how can you do the right thing if the industry is unregulated as to the types and amounts permitted to be put in toys?
According to the Organization,
“[b]eyond the lead paint restriction, there are no mandatory rules to regulate what can or cannot be used in children’s products in the U.S., and no disclosure requirements on toxic chemicals in toys.”
Is it safe to buy any toys until governmental regulations and testing have been created?28 percent of the toys listed in the database were deemed safe for children. What happens if you want to buy a toy that is not listed or you already have toys in your home?Although this does not seem like a perfect solution, you can nominate your toy to be tested by visiting the Test My Toy page on the site. The Organization will test the top nominees each week leading up to Christmas.I would recommend signing up for the Organization’s email updates.
In addition, visit the Organization’s Take Action section which urges you to call the leading manufacturers requesting them to disclose the ingredients in toys, send a message to your elected representatives telling them to properly regulate chemicals in products, tell your friends about this Organization, and donate to this worthily organization so they can continue their work.
Should you go and buy the lead testing kits for all of your toys?According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission in their article regarding lead test kits, it warns that the lead test kits are not fool proof and may render inaccurate results. Note, these tests are only useful in detecting surface lead not embedded lead.However, if you would still like to buy one, see recommendations for home lead tests kits by Consumer Reports in their blog article.
This discussion left me with many questions, which I was unable to resolve due to writing this article over the weekend.I felt it was more important to convey the warning about toys then to resolve my own questions. The questions that I felt that remained unresolved were how do you find out if toys that you have since childhood are okay if they are not listed on the database?Many toys may not being made anymore. Will they test old toys if consumers request it? I have toys for my youngest that are at least ten years old from his oldest brother.
The Organization suggests contacting a laboratory or testing organization that uses the XFR analyzer testing.Check with your local health office to see if they have such a device. How expensive would this testing be or would people really do this? I did a quick search on XRF analyzers and found an article on Inc.com that they cost about $25,000-40,000 so it is not something you can find in Home Depot.
If toys you have in your home have been deemed to be unsafe, then how do you dispose of them?I can’t see throwing them in a landfill. Wouldn’t that create another problem?Lastly, will the Organization continue testing throughout the year? I have sent an email to the organization and will follow-up with answers to my questions. In the meantime, check the database to make sure that your toys are not on the offender list and try and buy only those toys that are deemed safe.
Kids in Danger, a not for profit dedicated to protecting children by improving children’s product safety
Recall information as listed in Resources section on Healthytoys.org:
United States: http://www.recalls.gov/.
For the latest on toy recalls, see: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prerel.html.
For all lead recalls, see http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/Recalls/allhazards.htm
If you suspect that a toy is unsafe, or to report an unsafe product, then contacts the CPSC on the internet, or by phone: https://www.saferproducts.gov/CPSRMSPublic/Incidents/ReportIncident.aspxor 1-800-636-CPSC.
To receive email recall alerts from US Consumer Product Safety Commission http://www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx.
Canada’s Latestchildren Product Recalls
Update 12/20/2007:I spoke with Tracey Easthope, Director of the Environmental Health Project, about my questions. First, we discussed how you test older toys.Again, she reiterated that there is not a perfect solution but to see if there is any toy testing in your area, check with your health office to see if they have an XFR to test toys, or buy a recommended lead test for toy that have been painted.The major concern seems to be with children’s metal jewelry since it tested high in the Organization’s tests.
My second question was about what do you do if your toys test positive for any of the chemicals mentioned above?Each state is different so I would suggest you contact your state or county hazardous waste facility.
Tracey doubted that anyone toy would be deemed a hazardous waste, but it does not hurt to find out.But, just think if all parents start throwing away toys that have high levels of chemicals in them then the cumulative result will be chemicals leaching from our landfills.What should a parent do? Contact their state and federal representatives to urge legislation of the overhaul of Toxic Substance Control Act, created in 1976, which will eliminate harmful chemicals from being used in any of our products.This Toy Database is a wake-up call to us.We can’t languish in hopelessness thinking we are powerless to create change.Each one of us can dial a phone number, write a letter or send an email to our legislators as well as spread the word that we aren’t going to take it anymore with the message, we want harmful chemicals out of our lives.
Photo by permission of HealthyToys.org illustrating the toxic chemicals in the Hannah Montana Pop Star Card Game