One in Three Children’s Toys Tested Found to have Significant Levels of Toxic Chemicals Including Lead, Flame Retardants, and Arsenic

The Ecology Center, a Michigan-based nonprofit organization, and partners across the country on December 3, 2008, released the 2nd annual consumer guide to toxic chemicals in toys at www.HealthyToys.org. Researchers tested over 1,500 popular children’s toys for lead, cadmium, arsenic, PVC and other harmful chemicals in time for this year’s holiday shopping season. One in three toys tested were found to contain “medium” or “high” levels of chemicals of concern.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission last month announced that in 2008 toy recalls had dropped to 74 from 138 in 2007. Toy recalls in 2007 included toys containing lead paint, dangerous magnets and in one case, a chemical that left children temporarily comatose. Lead was detected in 20% of the toys tested this year. In some of the products, lead levels were well above the 600 parts-per-million (ppm) federal recall standard used for lead paint, and will exceed the U.S. legal limit in February, according to the new Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulations. The CPSC regulations, which go into effect in February 2009, would make certain products on the shelf this holiday season illegal to sell two months from now.

Levels of lead in many toys were significantly above the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended ceiling of 40 ppm of lead in children’s products. Children’s jewelry remains the most contaminated product category, maintaining its spot at the top of HealthyToys.org’s “worst” list. Researchers tested for chemicals that have been associated with reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone problems and cancer; and for those that have been identified by regulatory agencies as problematic.

Babies and young children are the most vulnerable populations because their brains and bodies are still developing, and because they frequently put toys into their mouths.

The testing was conducted with a screening technology – the portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer – that identifies the elemental composition of materials on or near the surface of products. Highlights from the HealthyToys.org 2008 findings: Lead is Still in Toys – When children are exposed to lead, the developmental and nervous system consequences can be irreversible. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended a level of 40 parts per million (ppm) of lead as the maximum that should be allowed in children’s products.

It’s Not Just China – 21% of toys from China and 16% of those from all other countries had detectable levels of lead in 2008.

It’s Not Just Lead – HealthyToys.org found a significant number of toys containing cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and bromine. 2.9% (45 products) had bromine at concentrations of 1,000 ppm or higher. This indicates the likely use of brominated flame retardants — chemicals that may pose hazards to children’s health. Other toxic chemicals found in toys include arsenic, cadmium, and mercury.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC / Vinyl) – HealthyToys.org identified products made with PVC plastic by measuring their chlorine content. PVC creates major environmental health hazards in its manufacture and disposal and may contain additives, including phthalates, that may pose hazards. 27% of toys (excluding jewelry) tested this year by HealthyToys.org were made with PVC.

Jewelry – Jewelry remains the most contaminated product category tested. Children’s jewelry is five-times more likely to contain lead above 600 ppm than other products. 15% of jewelry samples (compared to 3% of other products) had lead levels above 600 ppm. Overall, jewelry is twice as likely to contain detectable levels of lead as other products. Numerous Hannah Montana brand jewelry items tested high for lead. HealthyToys.org recommends that consumers avoid low cost children’s jewelry.

The Good News – The good news is that 62% (954) of the products tested contain LOW levels of chemicals of concern, including 324 of these products which contained NO chemicals of concern. These products look and feel no different than other children’s products on the shelf. These findings show that manufacturers can and should make toys free of unnecessary toxic chemicals.

The lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience handling personal injury claims including those involving dangerous and defective products. For 50 years spanning 3 generations, we have obtained results for satisfied clients. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas.

If you or someone close to you has been injured by a product that was not properly manufactured, designed or labeled, contact the personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit for their help. To learn more, watch our videos.

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