How to Keep Toxic Toys Out of Santa's Sack This Year


gifts under treeYou wouldn’t give your child a block of lead to suck on, right?  Unfortunately, lots of toy manufacturers would. Hidden toxins in children’s toys continue to permeate holiday goodies. Kids inadvertently lay hands on chemicals ranging from lead and cadmium to BPA and phthalates when they show up in shiny new toys.

Consumer pressure over the last few years has prompted both legal reform and greater responsibility from companies. The folks at Healthy Stuff tested this year’s popular holiday toys and found that contamination levels are down. The number of lead-laden toys was down 2/3 from 2007.

That other third includes items like a Dora the Explorer Activity Tote and Barbie Bike Flair Kit. Nice going, toymakers. These popular toys are over the legal limit for lead in toys. Not cool.

In addition to lead, Healthy Stuff tests children’s toys for cadmium, mercury, bromium and arsenic. They don’t test for phthalates, a chemical often used to soften plastics, but do take note of toys made from PVC, which often contains high levels of phthalate. PVC itself is none too healthy for us or the environment.

Phthalates have recently been banned from children’s products. That should make them less of a concern in this year’s toys. Then again lead isn’t exactly allowed in kid’s stuff and it shows up every year like that drunk uncle who always spikes the eggnog at Christmas dinner.

Happily, Healthy Stuff has a searchable database of safe toys. Their list is hardly exhaustive, but it is long. Consider surfing it before you shop.

You can also do what I do and just steer clear of plastic stuff altogether. Unpainted wood toys, quality art supplies, books and handmade fabric gifts like this pencil case are generally safe from the toxic chemicals we know about and the ones that haven’t hit the news yet.

Photo: Diana