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Toxic chemicals found in a third of children’s toys: study

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A third of the most popular children’s toys in the United States this year contain harmful chemicals including lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury, a US consumer group said Wednesday.

By Eartheasy Posted Dec 11, 2009

toys The Ecology Center, a Michigan-based nonprofit organization, and partners across the country today released 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 in time to help consumers make better choices for their families this holiday shopping season.

Researchers found that 32 percent of toys tested contained one or more toxic chemical.

The number of products exceeding current federal limits for lead in toys has dropped by 67 percent since 2007, though the chemical, which can affect the nervous system, was still present in 18 percent of toys, according to the center.

Lead levels in toys varied, with seven percent containing more than 40 parts per million (ppm), the highest level recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2007.

Another three percent of the products tested had levels exceeding 300 ppm, the federally-mandated limit, the study said.

Among the toys with detectable lead levels were the Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit, the Dora the Explorer Activity Tote and the Kid’s Poncho sold by Wal-Mart stores, the Michigan-based Ecology Center said.

The study, which used a portable x-ray fluorescence analyzer, also found cadmium levels greater than 100 ppm in 3.3 percent — or 22 — of the products tested and arsenic levels over 100 ppm in 1.3 percent — or nine — of the toys.

The authors said they were also concerned after finding that 42 percent of the toys tested contained PVC.

PVC is the worst plastic from an environmental health perspective because it creates major hazards in its manufacture, product life and disposal and can contain additives that may be dangerous to human health. PVC plastic without additives is very brittle. In order to make it flexible and to give it other properties, additional chemicals must be added. Phthalates are very commonly added to PVC to make it soft and flexible; however, they can leach out of the plastic. Phthalates have been implicated in some health problems in laboratory tests. Lead, cadmium and other heavy metals are also commonly added to PVC products.

On the positive side, two-thirds (68%) of the products tested in 2009 did not contain any lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury or PVC, including many made in China. These results show that manufacturers are responding to consumer sentiment, and have the ability to make toys free of unnecessary toxic chemicals.

The center, which has tested some 4,000 children’s products over the past three years, has created an online database where consumers can check whether the toys they have purchased contain toxic chemicals. For the latest on toys or childcare products recalled for any reason, see:

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