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Dec 022009

From Green Right Now Reports

The Ecology Center, a Michigan-based nonprofit organization, today released a report showing that one in three of all toys — including some children’s plastic purses, jewelry, toy trains and apparel  –  tested this holiday season contained one or more harmful chemical including lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury.

Dangerous Dora -- This "Explorer Pack" tested high for arsenic and lead.

Dangerous Dora -- This "Explorer Pack" tested high for arsenic and lead in a November test.

(See some of the worst offenders from the 2009 list of “High Concern” toys here.)

The Center, working with partners across the country, released its findings in the 3rd Annual Consumer Guide to Toxic Chemicals in Toys at Researchers tested nearly 700 popular 2009 children’s products for lead, cadmium, arsenic, PVC, and other harmful chemicals.

According to researchers, who have tested more than 4,000 children’s products over the past three years, lead has been steadily decreasing in toys.  The number of products with lead exceeding current federal standards for lead in toys (300 ppm) has decreased 67 percent since 2007.

However, 32 percent of the toys tested for this holiday season still contained one or more harmful chemical including lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury.

In addition, 18 percent of the products tested this holiday season (119 of 669) still contained detectable lead, including the Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit, Dora the Explorer Activity Tote, and the Kids Poncho from WalMart.

PVC, considered a “worst in class” plastic because of life cycle concerns, continues to be found in 42 percent 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,” Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center’s lead researcher and founder of, said in a statement. “We need a major overhaul of our chemicals policies immediately to start phasing out these dangerous substances.”

Holiday shoppers can obtain the findings on popular toys by going to the web site.  Consumers can search for toys by product name, UPC code, product type, manufacturer, or retailer to find products that have “No, Low, Medium,” or “High” levels of toxic chemicals.

Beware the Singing Puppy. This one tested high for lead, arsenic and bromine.

Beware the Singing Puppy. This one tested high for lead, arsenic and bromine in early 2009.

In addition to toys, tests products such as shoes, belts, wallets, handbags and backpacks. While levels of lead in toys have declined, adult and children’s apparel continues to show high levels of lead. For instance, over half of the 100 plastic handbags tested contain more than 1,000 ppm lead.

Babies and young children are the most vulnerable to toxic chemicals since their brains and bodies are still developing and because they commonly put toys, other products, and their hands into their mouths.

However, the researchers stressed that many manufacturers are producing safe toys. Two-thirds (68 percent) of the products tested in 2009 did not contain any lead, cadmium, arsenic, or mercury, including many made in China. These results show that manufacturers can make toys free of unnecessary toxic chemicals and 58 percent of children’s products were made without PVC.

To sample the toys, said its experts used a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer that identifies the elemental composition of materials. The device has been used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to screen packaging; the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to screen food; and many state and county health departments use this method to screen for residential lead paint.

Today, the U.S. Senate Environment & Public Works Committee is scheduled to hear testimony from three key federal agencies about the need to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – 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 law passed 33 years ago. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL) are expected to introduce a new bill soon to reform this outdated law.

Also today, environmental commissioners from 13 states released principles that call for updating and strengthening Act while preserving state implementation and management rights.  California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington endorsed the principles, which 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
  • assessing the safety of emerging chemicals of concern including nanoscale materials before they enter into widespread commerce