The study, directed by the Environmental Health Project of the Ecology Center in Michigan, also found that jewelry products were the most likely to contain high levels of lead.
Other items, such as bedroom slippers, bath toys and card-game cases were also tainted, some with as much as five times the standard safety level of lead. One Hannah Montana card-game case, for instance, had lead levels of 3,056 parts per million.
The study was conducted to spur government officials to take action against tainted toys. Millions of toys, most of them made in China, have already been recalled in 2007. Lead was supposedly banned for use in U.S. products marketed to children in 1978, but that doesn’t stop U.S. companies from importing lead-laced toys and selling them with fervor. Up to 80 percent of toys sold in the United States are manufactured in China.
Meanwhile, there is a loophole in the ban that still allows lead to legally exist in your child’s toys -- even those made here in the United States -- and that is plastic.
The use of lead in plastics has not been banned. This may explain the high levels of lead found in children’s jewelry.
As children are well known for putting anything and everything into their mouths, their toys simply must be pure. Children are more susceptible to lead absorption than adults, and even low levels of lead exposure have been linked to:
- Decreased intelligence
- Impaired neurobehavioral development
- Decreased stature and growth
- Impaired hearing acuity
- Mercury: A known neurotoxin that can harm your child’s developing brain.
- Cadmium: A known carcinogenic. Long-term exposure to low levels of cadmium can contribute to kidney disease, lung damage and fragile bones, and animal studies also suggest that it may lead to liver disease, high blood pressure, and nerve or brain damage.
- Arsenic: Long-term exposure to arsenic has been linked to cancer. Exposure to low levels of arsenic can cause nausea and vomiting, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, damage to blood vessels, and a sensation of "pins and needles" in hands and feet, and over the long term can cause darkening of the skin and the appearance of small "corns" or "warts" on the palms, soles, and torso.
- Phthalates: Used in soft plastic toys and baby bottles, these chemicals can mimic or block sex hormones, causing disruption of your endocrine system and early puberty in children.
The good thing about all of the media coverage on this issue is that many parents are becoming very choosy about the toys they buy.
Here are some tips to help make sure the toys your children play with are safe.
- Seek out toy-making companies that still maintain quality and safety in their products. Be sure to ask questions about their toys, such as what types of chemicals are used in their production.
- Look for organic and "green" environmentally friendly toys that use beeswax-based coatings, natural vegetable dyes, and organic fabrics and materials (such as wool, cotton, and bamboo).
- Support companies that use third-party testing of their products for lead and other heavy metals.
- Toys that are painted should always be labeled as having “lead-free paint,” but still avoid buying painted toys made outside of the United States or Europe.
- Get creative. Books, sports equipment, music, and even cardboard boxes that can be turned into forts make great, safe alternatives to traditional “toys.”