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There’s a great new resource for parents who want to check on the level of toxic chemicals found in their children’s toys. today released testing results for 1500 popular toys using an XRF handheld scanner to screen for lead, cadmium, chlorine, arsenic, bromine and mercury.

The pressure from parents and the media has led to some great changes in the toy industry and a more focused approach to testing and materials. And this website is an enormous step towards creating transparency for parents and helping them to understand exactly what is in toys and what the risks are.

Kudos to The Ecology Center for spearheading this important project.

But… I think it is important, as a parent, to take a deep breath here. The press release that went along with the debut of this information today was dramatic, proclaiming that one in three toys tested were fount to have high levels of toxic chemicals. I understand that with fear comes action – last year’s recalls proved that.  But it is important not to overreact.

Toys are a wonderful part of childhood, and great toys help children develop creativity, social skills, balance, coordination, and imagination. Toy manufacturers and distributors have been working very hard to understand the risks associated with certain chemicals and to source alternatives to make their products safer than ever. Most of the products we sell performed very well in this testing, and some did not. But if you are concerned (and I am), you need to take a close look at the testing results and understand the implications before you take action.

For instance, the Baby Bjorn Air Carrier is rated with a red “High” indicating a high level of toxicity. But look at the details and the story isn’t quite that scary. The fabrics showed some bromine in the white mesh fabric. The level was actually low – 1,066 parts per million – not high (from an industrial standpoint), which is considered anything over 5,000 parts per million. But according to the ranking information on the site, there is no middle ground for bromine – anything between 0 and 1000 parts per million would be classified as Low and anything over 1000 is classified as High. So for 66 parts per million, a very good product ends up with a frightening High rating. Hmmm.

Don’t get me wrong – this is a tremendous resource and it was a huge undertaking. But don’t freak out just because something in your playroom has a “High” ranking.


  1. Interesting info, thanks! Have you heard about the new CPSIA (Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act) that will go into effect on 2/10/09? It now requires lead and phthalates testing of all children’s products by an independent lab (at the cost of several thousands of dollars per item). On the surface, not a bad thing (we all want our kids to be safe), but the way this ill-conceived law was written it will put many smaller toy and apparel companies as well as independent crafters and artisans out of business. Some may be the trusted brands your store stocks 🙁

  2. This is such sad news.
    I am one of the small business made-in-the-USA companies that will go bankrupt. All the components of my kid’s clothes, which are hand-crafted right here in America are tested for contaminants. Now the government is saying that is not good enough. That each batch of item has to be tested when it is complete at aprox $500 per style. That means every jacket of the same materials in varying sizes is each a different “batch” that has to be tested. Each time a spool of thread or bolt of fabric, skein of yarn changes it constitutes being a new batch

    Certainly since the components going in didn’t contain contaminants there is no reason to think once put together they will magically have lead etc in them. I am sad to say a business that was started to provide safe, American items won’t be able to survive this. There will be nothing left but items coming from China after Feb 10, 2009 and respectively November 2009 when even more stringent rules will apply.

    68% of children’s apparel and toys that is made in this country (USA) comes from businesses of my size; with less than 15 employees. We will all be forced to close. This also means no more church fairs, grandma’s donating knit hats to preemies at hospitals and companies like mine. They are setting a no tolerance for noncompliance guideline that includes jail time and massive fines.

    Please feel free to contact me for any additional information about why these new guidelines will close us all down and not keep children safe.

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