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Toxic Toys Test High for Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic, or Mercury

ANN ARBOR, Michigan, December 2, 2009 (ENS) – One-third of the nearly 700 children’s toys tested by a nonprofit organization this holiday season contained one or more toxic chemicals, including lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury.

The Ecology Center, a nonprofit based in Michigan, and partners across the country, today released the results of their tests in the 3rd Annual Consumer Guide to Toxic Chemicals in Toys at www.HealthyStuff.org.

“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.

This Green Baby recycling garment tested high for lead and arsenic. (Photo courtesy HealthyStuff.org)

Researchers tested children’s products for lead, cadmium, arsenic, polyvinyl chloride, and other harmful chemicals in time to help consumers make better choices for their families this holiday shopping season.

The researchers at HealthyStuff.org find that lead has been decreasing in toys over the past three years.

“The number of products with lead exceeding current federal standards for lead in toys of 300 parts per million decreased by two-thirds since 2007,” the group said in a statement. Yet, three percent (17) of this year’s products tested at levels above 300 ppm, the federal recall standard used for lead material substrates in children’s products.

Lead can affect almost every organ and system in the body, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances. The main target for lead toxicity is the nervous system, both in adults and children. The U.S. EPA has determined that lead is a probable human carcinogen.

Of the 669 products tested, 119 contained detectable lead, including the Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit, Dora the Explorer Activity Tote, and the Kids Poncho from WalMart.

In 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended a level of 40 parts per million of lead as the maximum that should be allowed in children’s products. Seven percent, or 44 of this year’s toys tested at levels above 40 ppm.

“We need a major overhaul of our chemicals policies immediately to start phasing out these dangerous substances,” Gearhart said.

This Bigtime Muscle toy car tested high for cadmium. (Photo courtesy HealthyStuff.org)

Cadmium was found at levels greater than 100 ppm in 3.3 percent of products tested – 22 of 669 total products.

Arsenic was detected at levels greater than 100 ppm in 1.3 percent of products tested – nine of 669 total products.

To sample the toys, HealthyStuff.org researchers used a portable X-Ray Fluorescence, XRF, analyzer that identifies the elemental composition of materials. “This accurate device has been used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to screen packaging; the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to screen food; and, by many State and County Health Departments to screen for residential lead paint,” the group said.

Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hear testimony from three key federal agencies about the need to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, the law passed in 1976 to regulate chemicals.

To date, the EPA has required testing on only about 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals that have been on the market since the Toxic Substances Control Act was enacted.

Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, and Congressman Bobby Rush, a Democrat from Illinois, are expected to introduce a new bill soon to reform this law.

This stuffed animal tested high for lead and arsenic. (Photo courtesy HealthyStuff.org)

“There is growing concern from an array of voices about our weak federal law being helpless to prevent human exposure to toxic chemicals on a daily basis,” said Andy Igrejas, campaign director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “The time is right to enact strong reform to our toxic chemical laws, so that we can better protect our health and our children.”

Environmental commissioners from 13 states today released principles that call for updating and strengthening the Toxic Substances Control Act while preserving state implementation and management rights.

These principles include: protecting the most vulnerable including pregnant women and children; requiring manufacturers to provide health, safety, and use data on chemicals; demonstrating that chemicals in commerce are safe; identifying safer alternatives to toxic chemicals in keeping with the principles of green chemistry; and, assessing the safety of emerging chemicals of concern including nanoscale materials before they enter into widespread commerce.

The following states joined in issuing the principles: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

This year at HealthyStuff.org, holiday shoppers can search for toys by product name, UPC code, product type, manufacturer, or retailer to easily find products that have No, Low, Medium, or High levels of toxic chemicals.

Also available is a personalized holiday wish list that can be sent to family and friends, blog-friendly widgets in English and Spanish, a mobile application, and quick searches for toy rankings via SMS texting in English and Spanish.

View This Story On Eco–mmunity Map.