Nearly every month there seems to be another toy on the market that is recalled because it contains hazardous lead or cadmium paint. It appears to be an epidemic, and a situation that have parents deeply concerned.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, over the past three years there have been nearly 80 toys recalled for lead paint hazards alone. Some of the more prominent items to be affected by the recalls were popular Fisher Price and Thomas the Train toys. If that weren’t bad enough, just recently McDonald’s had to recall their Shrek promotional drinking glasses because of cadmium used in the paint.
Lead exposure in children has been known to decrease IQ performance, and cause hearing impairment and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The health effects of cadmium range from stomach pains and severe vomiting to psychological disorders and damage to the immune system.
Lead and cadmium aren’t the only hazardous materials used in toys. Soft plastic or PVC, the kind used in bath toys, squeeze toys and teething rings contain Phthalates (thay-lates). If the chemicals in these plastic toys are consumed by children they can cause kidney damage and may interfere with a child’s hormone systems which regulate normal growth and reproductive development.
The majority of these toxic toys are made in China. It is a common practice for Chinese toy manufacturers to use lead or cadmium paint because it is cheaper, makes the colors brighter and is more durable than regular paint. It’s the same situation when it comes to soft plastic toys. As consumers we want to buy inexpensive products, and in order for that to happen cheaper materials are used.
Parents want to know how to detect if a toy may contain these harmful materials. It’s not necessarily a rule of thumb but if you have a toy made in China and it has red, orange or yellow paint, the chances are it will test positive for lead or cadmium. The other way to find out is to check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website for their list of recalled toys.
As for plastic toys, the best thing is to find soft plastic toys made of polyethylene and ethylene vinyl acetate as they do not contain phthalates. Or better yet purchase your plastic toys from manufacturers who are committed to making safe, PVC-free toys. Some of these manufacturers include Lego Toys, BRIO Corporation, Lamaze Infant Development, Early Start, and our own Northeastern Ohio manufacturer Little Tikes.
The ideal solution is to have more federal guidelines as to the kind of ingredients acceptable for children’s toys. The government should restrict any toys with these toxic materials from being imported into the country. But until that is accomplished, all parents need to be vigilant about the toys they purchase for their children, as they are the first line of defense.