Toxic Toys Contaminated with Lead, Arsenic, Mercury and Other Chemicals Still on Store Shelves

Toys sitting on store shelves right now are often contaminated with hazardous chemicals, including lead, arsenic, mercury and asbestos a new report says.   The Environmental Health Project for the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan says that recent tests it conducted on more than 1,200 toys show that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is not doing enough to protect children from dangerous toys, and that manufacturers are not self-regulating the toy industry.

According to The Consumer Action Guide to Toxic Chemicals in Toys, 17% of the toys tested contained levels of lead that were in excess of federal standards.   Lead is highly toxic and can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems and other health issues in young children if ingested.  According to the toy safety report, the highest concentrations of lead were found in children’s jewelry. Of the 504 pieces of jewelry tested, more than 33% contained lead at levels greater than the 600 parts per million standard for toys and children’s products set by the CPSC.  Products made of soft plastic also dominated the list of toys with high levels of lead. Lead is sometimes added to vinyl as a stabilizer. Among the other toys containing significant levels of lead were the Hannah Montana Pop Star Card Game with 2,000 to 3,000 parts per million in the card case, Elmo’s Take-Along Card games with almost 10,000 parts per million in the Red Elmo bag, and a Barbie purple convertible with about 100 to 250 parts per million in the tires and undercarriage.

And it wasn’t just lead that was found. The Environmental Health Project for the Ecology Center also found other chemicals such as cadmium, arsenic and mercury in a small percentage of the toys, as well as toys made with polyvinyl chloride, which often contain toxic additives, such as phthalates.   While the group is not claiming that the presence of these toxins in toys presents an immediate danger to the health of children, they raise concerns because exposing children to such chemicals is not necessary.  In fact, many of the toys tested contained no toxins at all, proving that toy manufacturers can avoid dangerous chemicals if they choose to do so.

To help parents choose toys that are free of toxic chemicals, the nonprofit center has established a website at  All 1200 toys tested by the center are listed by brand or type along with a listing of any chemicals found in them, and the center has plans to update the site by adding 10 more toys each week until Christmas.  Parents curious about the chemicals present in a specific toy can search the site by brand names, the name of the toy itself and by type of toy.   Additionally, the site offers a “Test My Toy” feature whereby consumers can request that the center test a specific toy if it is not listed on the HealthyToys site.

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