Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Lead, Cadmium, and Other Harmful Chemicals Found in Popular Holiday Toys

Environmental Health Groups Release Testing Results Today at
Holiday Favorites, Including Hannah Montana
& Circo Contaminated with High Levels of Toxic Chemicals

The Ecology Center, a Michigan-based nonprofit organization, today released the results of their testing of 1,200 popular children’s toys for toxic chemicals at

"The government is not testing for toxic chemicals in toys, and too many manufacturers are not self-regulating, so several nonprofit organizations created the nation’s first toy database to help inform and empower consumers,” said Tracey Easthope, MPH, Director of the Ecology Center’s Environmental Health Project. “Ultimately consumers need to take action to compel the federal government and toy manufacturers to eliminate dangerous chemicals from toys."

While some toys had high levels of chemicals such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic, others were free of these harmful additives. Parents and other holiday shoppers can now easily search by product name, brand, or toy type (i.e. dolls, teethers, jewelry, bibs, etc.) to learn how the products rate in terms of harmful chemical content. Babies and young children are the most vulnerable since their brains and bodies are still developing and because they frequently put toys into their mouths.

Researchers chose to test these particular chemicals because they have been identified by many regulatory agencies as problematic, they have been associated with reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone problems and cancer, and because they are found in children’s products. The testing was conducted with a screening technology -- the portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer -- which identifies the elemental composition of materials on the surface of products.

"Toxic chemicals have no place in children’s toys, period," said Ted Schettler, MD, Science Director at the Science and Environmental Health Network. “Even low-level toxic chemical exposures can have lifelong impacts. Getting toxic chemicals out of children’s toys is a moral and medical imperative." tested 1,200 children's products and more than 3,000 components of those products. findings:

Lead: When children are exposed to lead, the developmental and nervous system consequences are irreversible. Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended a level of 40 parts per million (ppm) of lead as the maximum that should be allowed in children's products. Nevertheless, there are no federal regulations for lead in vinyl or plastic toys or children’s jewelry. The only existing standard is for lead in paint. found lead in 35% of all the products tested. Seventeen percent (17%) of the products had levels above the 600 ppm federal recall standard used for lead paint! The testing detected more than 6,700 ppm in Dollar Store animal figurines; 3,056 ppm in a Hannah Montana Pop Star Card Pack; and 1,700 ppm lead in a pair of Circo baby shoes.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC / Vinyl): determined products were made with PVC plastic by measuring their chlorine content. PVC is a problematic plastic from an environmental health perspective because it creates major hazards throughout its life cycle and contains additives that can be dangerous to human health. Phthalates are chemicals that are very commonly added to PVC to make it soft and flexible, however, they can leach out of the plastic. Exposure to phthalates is linked to birth defects of the genitals and altered levels of reproductive hormones in baby boys. There are currently no federal regulations limiting phthalates in children's products. California recently passed a ban of several phthalates in children’s products, and Europe has restricted the use of phthalates in children’s toys and child care items. 47% percent of toys (excluding jewelry) tested by were PVC.

Cadmium: Cadmium is a heavy metal that is used in coatings and pigments in plastic and paint. It is a known human carcinogen and exposure can cause adverse effects on the kidneys, lungs, liver, and testes. Currently there are no mandatory restrictions on cadmium in children’s products in the U.S. found cadmium at levels greater than 100 ppm in 2.9% of products -- 22 of the 764 products tested for cadmium-- including painted toys, PVC toys, backpacks, lunch boxes and bibs. also tested toys for arsenic, mercury, bromine, chromium, tin and antimony -- chemicals that have all been linked to health problems and have been subject to either regulatory restrictions or voluntary limits set by industry associations or third party environmental organizations.

The Good News: Twenty-eight percent (28%) of the products tested did not contain any lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury or PVC, including many made in China. Examples of healthier toys include: Amazing Animals Hippo by Fisher-Price (made in China); Caterpillar Grasping Toy, Melissa and Doug (made in Vietnam); and B.R. Bruin Stacking Cups (made in China). provides specific guidelines for how to petition federal and state government agencies and toy manufacturers to urge them to phase out toxic chemicals from toys immediately. Visitors to can nominate other products to be tested. The most commonly requested items will be tested each week leading up to the Holidays.

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