As an older mom, I no longer have the immediate concern about the safety of the toys chosen for Christmas gifts. This Christmas is the very first since 1978 that there haven’t been some kind of toys on one of my children’s Christmas lists which is kind of bittersweet for me in a way. (Yes, I know, I should be grateful I don’t have to fight for Tickle Me Elmo Extreme or a Star Wars Starfighter or even a Nintendo Wii.) I don’t know if I’ll even enter the doors of Toys R Us this year, which is a really weird rite of passage!
However, with all of the toy recalls this year and new rumblings of more problems in the toy industry’s oversight and monitoring of overseas manufacturers, there is cause for genuine concern. On the online board of Kindermusik educators this morning, I read a post from an educator, a concerned mom herself, with these questions:
I need some help.
I’m a newer mom and I’m confused about all the reporting and recalls that have been happening regarding lead paints in toys.
As I’m building my instrument and toy collection for classes, I feel confident anything purchased from KI has been tested for lead and will meet federal regulations.
But what about the things I’m purchasing outside of KI? How can I test these items for lead?
Or – at what age do I need to be less concerned about lead in toys for children? I presume I’m most concerned for those babies and children who put toys and instruments in their mouths.
Do I need to be concerned with plastic, wood and plush instruments/ toys? Or only those where paint can flake off?
Is there any one place to check for recalls on the lead paint?
These are all questions that any concerned mom would ask. Until yesterday, I would have directed them to the Consumer Products Safety Commission site here. Yesterday, however, I learned of a new site – Healthy Toys.org.
The subtitle of Healthy Toys says a great deal about what you will find there – The Consumer Action Guide to Toxic Chemicals in Toys. You can search by name, brand, or type of toy. You can even nominate a toy from your child’s collection for testing.
The site will give you specific information on the chemicals found in the toys tested. I typed in “Elmo” just to get an idea of what I might find. I got two returns - “Elmo’s Take-along Card Games” purchased at Dollar General Stores and the “Elmo Flashlight” purchased from Kmart.
Just out of curiosity, I clicked on the card games, thinking that there really shouldn’t be that much to be worried about. They’re just cards, right?
Well, I was pleased and shocked with what I found.
Healthytoys.org gives you highly detailed information – type of toy as well as a description of it, retailer it was purchased from, the distributor of the toy, the retailer code, where it was manufactured, and the test date/place as well as the test method which is also hyperlinked with further details about the test process. To see this kind of information on one single toy was very nice. However, the shocking part was what they actually found in this one toy.
High levels of lead, arsenic, and mercury were found with troublesome levels of chlorine/PVC and cadmium as well as traces of bromine and antimony. The cards themselves were relatively harmless with only 3ppm (parts per million) of arsenic found. The real culprit was the red carrying bag with a whopping 9,997 ppm of lead, 155,111 ppm of chlorine/PVC, and 984 ppm of arsenic.
Most adults would probably shrug and just toss if off with a thought of, “Well, it’s only the bag it came in. It won’t be played with.”
But, as a mom of five as well as a Kindermusik educator that teaches very young children and babies, I can testify to the fact that this bag would, in all likelihood, wind up in some child’s mouth at some point because very young children, especially babies and toddlers, explore their world primarily through their mouth. Given the fact that it’s red and probably enticing to the eye, it’s almost a sure thing that some child in this world would try it out in their mouth. Would you want it to be yours?
The whole point of this post is not to rant about any one toy, but, instead, to provide badly needed information to concerned parents as well as extended family and friends. If you’re wondering about the safety of your child’s toys or gifts planned for Christmas, do yourself a favor and zip over to HealthyToys.org.
Be prepared for a possible delay in accessing their website due to extremely heavy traffic. The site was slammed yesterday when they announced their opening. I tried all through the day and couldn’t get in until late last night. But it is well worth your time and effort for some peace of mind. After all, it’s your child’s safety we’re talking about, right?