Toxic toys named and shamed

Parents across the world will be hitting the shops this month to fill their shopping baskets with some of the must-have toys for this Christmas.

However, a new US study has revealed that hundreds of popular children's toys and clothing products contain potentially harmful levels of chemicals such as lead, arsenic and mercury.

The Michigan-based Ecology Centre has now created a database naming and shaming some of the worst offenders and allowing parents to search for toys on their children's Christmas lists before parting with their cash.

"The government is not testing for toxic chemicals in toys and too many manufacturers are not self-regulating so we created the nation's first toy database to help inform and empower consumers," said Tracey Easthope, director of the Ecology Centre's Environmental Health Project.

"Ultimately consumers need to compel the federal government and toy manufacturers to eliminate dangerous chemicals from toys."

More than 1,200 products were tested for chemicals which have been linked to a range of conditions in children, including reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone problems and cancer.

Lead was found in 35% of the products tested, with a range of animal figurines revealing a level of more than 6,700ppm (parts per million), while some baby shoes were found to contain 1,700ppm.

Federal regulations controlling levels of lead in consumer products currently only cover paint, and recommend a level of just 600ppm.

Nearly half of the toys tested were PVC, which contains potentially harmful additives such as phthalates, 2.9% contained more than 100ppm of the carcinogen Cadmium, and 2.2% had more than 100ppm of arsenic.

However, the good news for parents is that 28% of the products tested did not contain any lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury or PVC, including many toys made in China.

The database can be found at where visitors can nominate other products to be tested.

Kate Martin



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