Toy Safety


Many toys have been tested for dangerous chemicals like lead, arsenic, mercury, bromine, cadmium, etc.  Washington now has the strongest toy standards in the country regarding limits on lead and other chemicals.  

  • Lead is Dangerous.  Lead is often found in brightly-colored wooden and vinyl toys, lunchboxes, jewelry and zipper pulls. 
Childhood exposure to lead can damage organs and cause learning problems, reduced intelligence, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, and nervous system problems.   Studies show that lead damages the nervous system, kidneys, brain, and the reproductive system.  No amount of lead in the body is safe.  Lead has been linked to developmental impairment, learning and behavior problems, and birth defects.  
    • Lead in paint -   A paint chip the size of your fingernail which is ingested by a 2-year old is enough to kill the child.  The sale of lead-based paint was banned in 1978.  Homes built prior to 1950 are considered the most likely places for lead paint contamination, especially if the old paint is allowed to chip and peel.  Lead paint may be painted over to seal the lead beneath a safe coating. Landlords, building owners and property management companies are compelled by law to tell people about existing lead-paint risks and how to protect children.  EPA and HUD have established a “Tips and Complaints” hotline (800-424-LEAD) for anyone seeking information about lead-based paint, lead poisoning, or for individuals who wish to report any alleged violations of the disclosure rule.
    • Lead in toys –  Many toys have been coated with paint containing lead.  Protect children’s health by learning about recalls for toys that could be harmful.  Washington State now requires toys sold in our State to be free of lead; however, there may be existing toys in our homes which are covered with lead paint.  
“Made in China” should now be considered a warning label.  Mattel-Fisher-Price has recalled over 1 million Chinese-made toys, and other items sold to the U.S., because of concerns about lead paint and tiny magnets that could be swallowed.  Most of the recalled toys painted with lead paint had 16x the allowable level of lead, and some were 180x over the lead limit.
    • Swimming in Lead.  Lead is one of the toxins present in the Spokane River.   (see Spokane River and Aquifer under the “Environment” topic on this site)  
    • Lead Test Kits.  Parents may purchase simple lead test kits from local hardware stores or online to test their children’s toys for lead.  
  • Cadmium.  Cadmium is a human carcinogen, associated with cancer, hormonal problems, motor skills delays, kidney, lung and intestinal problems.
  • Formaldehyde.  New Zealand has found dangerous levels of formaldehyde, a potentially cancer-causing chemical preservative, in children’s clothes and blankets imported from China.
  • Phthalates are common in toys, vinyl flooring, detergents, food packaging, nail polish and wallpaper.  They are known animal carcinogens which cause reproductive and sexual development problems and fetal death in animal studies.
  • Polycarbonate plastic (used in 90% of baby bottles, sippy cups, Nalgene sports bottles, microwavable dishes, eyeglass lenses, dental sealants, and the lining of food and beverage containers) has become a health concern.  Many items are not identified, except by the recycling code 7 or “PC” on the bottom.   The chemical of concern is bisphenol A, called BPA, which leaches out of the plastic, particularly when heated.   BPA has been shown to cause tumors, reproductive problems and developmental damage in some animals.  Consider the options of breastfeeding, buying glass bottles, or BPA-free plastic bottles—and keep informed of the latest research. 

What You Can Do
  • Encourage Tougher Laws.  Encourage Congress and state legislatures to pass tougher toy laws and boost regulatory funding.  Ask them to ban the use of lead in all children’s toys.  Only one employee at the U.S. Consumer Produce Safety Commission is a toy tester.  
  • Learn about Toy Safety.  Learn about toy safety issues and teach others.  Find the chemical test results for hundreds of toys at http://healthytoys.org.  
    • Choking hazards.  Some toy hazards include small, detachable parts that can cause choking, long cords that can cause strangulation, frayed wires or other problems that can cause electrocution, and riding or flying toys.  Balloons should not be given to children younger than 3 years old.
    • Loudness.  Toys topping 90 decibels can cause hearing loss in children.  Noise above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.  (American Academy of Otolaryngology)  Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, have found that some children's toys, if held close enough, can reach decibel levels similar to a subway train or a chain saw.  Parents may choose to put tape over the speakers of some toys to lessen the sound.  (Los Angeles Times, December 24, 2011)  
    • Magnets.  If swallowed, small but powerful magnets can attract each other and tear intestinal walls or block bowels.    
    • Projectile toys.  Slingshots, darts, and air rockets should be used with caution and restricted to older children to prevent injury.

    • Ride-on toys.  Bicycles, skates, skateboards, and riding toys can be fast and cause harmful or deadly falls.  Children should wear properly sized helmets and safety gear.
Additional Resources

View products that could be harmful to children and families.

(toys, cribs, chairs, drinking glasses, lunchboxes)

Car Seats
Over 150 children’s car seats were tested for chemicals in 2011, and test results showed that 60% of them contained harmful chemicals that are linked to reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone imbalances and cancer. 
http://healthystuff.org/departments/childrens-products/about.findings.php 

ConsumerDangers.Com   
Protecting Consumers - Keep your family Safe.
Consumer products and Medical dangers.
Defective, unsafe, or harmful goods or products…
Baby/children products, drugs, medical devices,
household chemicals, televisions, furniture, gun safety....  
http://www.consumerdangers.com/

“Dangerous Toy List” and a toy safety report every Christmas.
http://uspirg.org/issues/toy-safety (U.S. Public Interest Group). 

Healthy Toys.
Search a database of toys to see how public interest groups ranked them for safety.  Parents can now have a list of toys which tested clean.  The ratings range from low to high risk.  They have tested hundreds of toys for lead, arsenic, mercury, bromine, cadmium, etc.   Babies and young children are the most vulnerable populations because their brains and bodies are still developing, and because they frequently put toys into their mouths.  http://healthytoys.org 

Products that could be harmful to children and families (from toys to chairs and drinking glasses).  Parents may also sign up to receive email alerts from this agency. 
http://cpsc.gov/ (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission).

Toy Safety Tips
http://www.ToySafetyTips.org

Toys with lead paint hazard. 
http://service.mattel.com/us/recall.asp 

“12 Safe Toy Shopping Tips
 http://consumersunion.org/blogs/nimc/2007/11/12_toy_shopping_tips_for_a_safe_1.html 

National Lead Information Center
1-800-424-5323

Washington State Dept. of Health
http://doh.wa.gov