Get The Lead Out
By February of this year, all children’s toys and products were forced to meet new, stricter lead standards, no matter when or where the products were made.
But The Ecology Center, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, finds that one in three toys still contain heavy metals - lead, cadmium, arsenic, or mercury.
Lead may be decreasing while other toxic chemicals persist, the consumer group concludes.
The nonprofit helps parents find healthier toys by product name, UPC code, manufacturer, or retailer through the “2009 Guide to Toxic Chemicals in Toys” found at www.HealthyStuff.org.
The group looked at 700 toys, children’s products, bags, shoes and backpacks this year for its third annual consumer guide.
* Cadmium is a carcinogen linked to lung and prostate cancer. It was found in 3.3 percent of products tested in levels greater than 100 ppm. Arsenic was found as well greater than 100 ppm in 1.3 percent of the products tested.
* 42 percent contained polyvinyl chloride or PVC which is a plastic with additives including lead, cadmium and other metals.
* Lead was found in 18 percent of the products tested or 119 out of of 669 items. Three percent had lead levels higher than 300 ppm. The American Academy of Pediatrics sets the maximum exposure of lead at 40 ppm.
Testing positive for detectable lead were: Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit, Dora the Explorer Activity Tote, and the Kids Poncho from WalMart. PVC, a 'worst in class' plastic because of life cycle concerns, is still present in 42% of children's products.
"The toxic chemicals that we find are a fraction of the thousands of chemicals that can be present in everyday products, including those intended for children," said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center's lead researcher, who founded HealthyStuff.org.
"We need a major overhaul of our chemicals policies immediately to start phasing out these dangerous substances."
The only bright news – lead levels have decreased 67 percent since 2007.
One example is the game Leapster LeapFrog Carrying Case. Last year it tested positive for lead, and this year the Center’s Jeff Gearhart says the case has been reformulated by Leapster and this year it tests at 23 ppm.
The American Academy of Pediatrics sets the maximum exposure of lead at 40 ppm.
The lead standard is supposed to be phased down to 300 ppm this August and 100 ppm in August 2011, if feasible, as reported in the CPSC Lead Phase Out Timetable.
What Consumers Can Do
A lead test kit for the home might make a good stocking stuffer. Two years ago, Consumer Reports reviewed the kits for accuracy, finding three out of five were useful.
Lead test kits will allow you to determine if lead is on the surface of items. Slightly scratch the surface to find lead under the paint. If any toys or jewelry test positive for lead, remove it from your children.
Homax Lead Check $8
Lead Check Household Lead Test Kit, $18.45
Made by the same company, these two kits use cigarette-shaped swabs that turn pink when they detect lead. Consumer Reports finds they were the easiest to use and identify accessible lead. Find them on-line at: Lead Check
Homax shows us how to test for lead with pictures and reminds us that even a liner of a lunch-box can contain lead.
Lead Inspector $13
This kit uses swabs too that turn yellow, brown, gray or black if lead is detected. This might be a good kit for painted metal jewelry, the consumer group finds. Also this kit is the preferred choice for items that are pink or red because they might not show up as well on Lead Check. Chemicals emitted from test kits should always require user to wear gloves and protect skin.
Find Lead Inspector online.
Pro-Lab Lead Surface $10
Consumer Reports didn’t like this kit. Moistened paper used to check for lead often fell apart before the two-minute timer was over. Their web site has more.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) evaluated 104 lead test kits in October 2007 with largely with negative results. Two of the kits had false positives and more than half (56) had false negatives. #