Edgy Mama: Toxic toys … research before you buy

Yeah, I’ve written about toxic toys before, but it’s that time of year. That time of year when many folks feel the need to purchase toys because it’s holiday time. Because, by God, we’re Americans. And we like to spend money on non-biodegradable plastic crap that our kids might play with for an hour before casting away. Which can be good — because the less time they play with many of the toys purchased from places like Toys R Us, the less likely these kids will end up poisoned by heavy metals and man-made toxins.

Read on to learn how to avoid purchasing toys that could potentially poison your kids.

One of my favorite websites, http://www.HealthyStuff.org, researches toxicity levels in everyday products. Recent tests by this organization of over 200 toys show lead concentrations continue to decline. That’s the good news. The website notes: “While lead was detected in 61 percent of our samples, none of the products contained lead at over 300 parts per million (the current Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act limit for lead).”

However, the HealthyStuff folks add that most the toys they tested contain unhealthy levels of polyvinyl chloride, cadmium and tin. In fact, 75 percent of the products tested contained PVC in one or more components (it’s often in the packaging). And 48 percent contain cadmium levels greater than the CPSIA recommended level, while 77 percent have tin levels higher than recommended.

These substances all are considered carcinogenic and potentially dangerous. PVC is a type of plastic that has been linked to chronic diseases in children, impaired child development and birth defects, cancer, disruption of the endocrine system, reproductive impairment and immune system suppression.

Both cadmium and tin can be used as stabilizers in PVC products. Cadmium exposure has been linked to development delays and more, while tin exposure can cause liver, kidney and immune system problems.

Why, people, are we still letting toys with these toxins be sold? And played with by our progeny? I don’t have an answer to that one. But I’m pissed about it. Http://www.HealthyStuff.org also has conducted toy testing for the National Commission of Inquiry into Toxic Toys, which recently released the findings of the 2010 Toxic Toys R Us Report.

The site, http://www.toxictoysrus.com, and the report are part of a long-term effort by health, environmental, consumer and labor activists to hold Toys R Us accountable for selling toxic toys. The group also is pushing for comprehensive labeling of all toys that contain toxic chemicals. Though if the cigarette industry offers any indication, labeling may not make a huge difference. One can hope, however.

The ToxicToysRUs site says: “In 2008, Toys R Us promised to reduce PVC plastic, phthalates and lead in children’s and infant’s toys. But the fact of the matter is that Toys R Us has not kept its promise. It has failed to label toxics in its toys and has failed to get PVC, the poison plastic, out of the toys it sells.”

They go on to say: “As the largest specialized toy retailer in America, with more than 800 stores nationwide, Toys R Us has the economic power to eliminate toxins from the toy supply chain entirely. Testing conducted on toys purchased at Toys R Us by the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., shows that 72.5 percent of all toys and children’s products tested contained high levels of chlorine, indicating they were likely made of PVC.”

Here are a few of the toys that Toys R Us sells that tested positive for PVC and are likely to be hot holiday gifts: Toy Story 3 Great Shape Barbie (so, she’s not in such great shape), Marvel Universe Handful of Heroes Series I (wait, don’t superheroes often mutate after exposure to radiation and toxic metals?) and You & Me Take Along Baby. This last toy’s test particularly disturbs because the toxin is in the body of the doll, which is marketed to toddlers, whom, as we know, love to put everything in their mouths.

If you’d like to take action, you can choose not to shop at Toys R Us or anywhere else that sells these toys. You can find a complete listing of results for all 200-plus toys tested by HealthyStuff at http://www.HealthyStuff.org.

You also can write your elected officials and ask them to reform the federal laws that allow toxins in our kids’ toys. Go to the http://www.toxictoysrus.com to find a form letter that’s ready to e-mail to our senators and representatives.

Oh, and happy holidays.


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