Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Toxins In Toys: Lead

This month I'm doing a series of posts called Toxins In Toys where I will be talking about toxins including lead, phthalates, BPA and more. I will also include some reviews and giveaways from our favorite safe toy stores. With Christmas approaching, its especially important to take a moment to think about the safety of toys that your children are playing with and the new things that you bring into your home.

Everyone knows that lead is a huge safety concern. Children are routinely screened for lead poisoning, and most people are aware of the dangers. Lead poisoning can cause developmental delays, poor attention span, weight loss, anemia, and more. When thinking of lead poisoning, old paint, lead pipes, and soil contamination come to mind - but what about your child's favorite Thomas the train engine or plastic Dora figure? There have been literally millions of toys recalled lately for lead issues. I'm glad they are being recalled, but is every toy out there being tested? How many toys do I have in my home that could have lead in them? What if I have a toy that is recalled? I'm left with a $5 voucher for a new toy, and a child with lead in his or her system. At the bottom of the recall notices you can read "What to do if you have a recalled toy - take the toy immediately away from your child and contact such and such company for a replacement." Really? That's all?

Recently researchers have realized that even low levels of lead can have significant effects on children. The "safe" level today is much lower than it was in the past, and recent studies have shown that there is no safe dose of lead, it is highly toxic to the body. Lead exposure is of greatest concern when children are young enough that they are putting toys in their mouths. Even an older children can ingest lead by handling a toy and then putting his hands to his mouth to eat something.

There are two types of lead - surface lead and embedded lead. Surface lead for toys is regulated by the Consumer Products Safety Commission at no more than 600 parts per million. There are no regulations for non toy products however. Embedded lead is injected into plastic or vinyl as a stabilizer and at this point I am unclear as to whether or not that is regulated with the new CPSIA laws. Lead can be found painted on wood, fabric, and plastic, or injected into plastic and vinyl. Yellow and red colors are the most likely to have lead added to them as it makes the colors brighter.

Mega Blocks are one example of embedded lead - the yellow blocks were found to have lead in them. There was some controversy about the type of testing done and the blocks have not been recalled. You can read an article about this here.

Here is a good article about lead in toys from Sara's Toy Box.

Check the CPSC website for recalls and subscribe to their email list to be notified about recalls as the occur.

Healthy Stuff has tested toys, you can search their database to see if a toy you are looking for has been tested.

What struck me in looking through the recall notices is that these are toys I would buy and could easily have in my home. In later posts I will talk more about what our family has chosen to do in response to this information. In general though, we tend towards toys that are made of natural substances and from safe reputable companies. Hopefully this gets you started thinking about the toys in your home. Keep reading for more about toxins in toys.

(Note: the Dora and Elmo toys pictured in this post have both been recalled.)

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