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Lead In Toys and Jewelry Still Widely Available

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, November 26, 2007 12:49 PM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: toxic toys, defective products

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Retailers report consumers are wary this shopping season, especially when it comes to buying toys. 

In Macon, Georgia, Ladonna Gosner carried a list of recently recalled toys when she shopped for her toddler sons this weekend. 

"I try to get my children safe toys, but lead paint was just something I had never thought about," she told Macon.com. “My 18-month-old puts everything in his mouth."

And so she armed herself with a lead testing kit.

Gosner is typical of parents today. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled about 26 million toys over the last year. Compare that to five million the year before.  

Small choking hazards have always been of concern, but lead is increasingly among the problems.  

With all of this summer’s news about toxic lead in toys, the California based consumer group, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) went on a four-day pre-holiday shopping trip to find out if manufacturers have gotten the lead out of toys.   

The short answer is no. 

The group bought 100 toys at Target, Wal-Mart and Disney and reports that nine out of the 100 toys had high lead levels of 900 parts per million or more. 

Caroline Fox, researcher at CEH tells IB News that despite assurances from the government and manufacturers for a safe holiday, there is still a lot of uncertainty. 

“This shows they are not doing enough.  Maybe they’re doing more than they used to but it’s not enough.” 

Items CEH found with lead include Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer and Sponge Bob bat and ball sets—all purchased from Target—and a Disney “Princess” coin purse and “Starletz” ceramic tea sets purchased from a local dollar store. 

The tea sets tested at more than 20 times the legal limit. 

Sometimes lead is found in unlikely sources such as vinyl (PVC) to which lead is added as a stabilizer.  The lead found in the Dora and Sponge Bob toys are from PVC. 

PVC is also found in baby bibs, lunch boxes and rain ponchos and increasingly in toys for children.

Last week the CPSC recalled more than 500,000 pieces of children’s jewelry because of hazardous levels of lead. The items were found at stories such as Michael’s and Big Lots. 

In this recall, the retailers agreed with the New York attorney general’s office to provide information to the CPSC which lead to the recalls.  New York’s AG Andrew Cuomo will, under the settlement, be able to fine the companies if they are caught selling any more toys with lead in the future.

Since 2004, the CPSC has recalled 170 million pieces of jewelry for lead which can cause neurological problems in children as well and learning and behavioral problems after acute or long-term exposure. 

"Mothers are fed up with the endless string of toxic toys this year," said Joan Blades, President of MomsRising.org and co-founder of Move On.org. 

She tells IB News "We won't tolerate lead in our children's lunchboxes and we won't tolerate the government's failure to be a real watchdog. 

Blades has a made a petition available on her website for parents to sign supporting legislation to modernize the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the regulatory agency in charge of keeping consumer products safe. 

"We have leaders to propose legislation but if they don't get citizen backing, often it won't happen," explains Blades.

Since 1980, the CPSC has seen its budget slashed in half while international trade agreements have flooded the U.S. with low cost imports created by countries with little or no safety standards. 

Formalizing third party testing is a component of the CPSC modernization before Congress which would increase the agency’s funding and authority as well as ban industry-sponsored trips for CPSC personnel. 

Scott Wolfson, of the CPSC says that consumers should know the agency is improving all the time. He tells IB News that the factory that made the recently recalled Aqua Dots has been closed and the Chinese government has just signed new agreements to conduct pre-export inspection for lead painted toys. 

So in the meantime what can vigilant parents do?  

Like Ladonna Gosner, many are taking testing into their own hands and purchasing their own lead test kits. 

While critics say they only test for lead on the surface,  Leadcheck marketing says you can find lead elsewhere if you scratch beneath the surface. 

“It’s as accurate as any test. There’s nothing more accurate on the market. You can’t get a negative test. It’s impossible to get a false positive because the chemistry will only react with lead,” Don Robart tells IB News

The test kit is small and swabs are bout the size of a cigarette, small enough to test covertly in the aisles of Toys R Us. The test kit costs $18.45 for eight swabs and can be used on all toys and even jewelry for older children, sometimes overlooked by parents as a potential lead source. #

 


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