Research Study on Hazardous Metals in Toys

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

New Hazardous Substance Study Tests Toys From Store Shelves


A recent research study by the Ecology Center in Michigan tested 1,500 random toys and found that one out of every three contained “medium” or “high” levels of hazardous chemicals; such as lead, cadmium, mercury, etc.  The group utilized a handheld XRF system (similar to the Pocket from Skyray XRF) to test a wide range of toys; attempting to represent a cross section of items that are popular with children in the United States. Researchers bought the toys at major chain retail stores, dollars stores, on-line retailers and independent toy stores.

The topic of hazardous substances in toys is always important to monitor and discuss, but gains increased awareness during the holiday season. The heavy metal that gains the most attention, lead, was found in 20% of the toys tested, with 3.5% exceeding the 600 parts-per-million (ppm) levels set by federal regulations. This number has, however, decreased by half (from 7%) since a similar study was completed in 2007. Another growing focus of regulations, children’s jewelry, was noted to be five times more likely than other toys to exceed the toxic 600 ppm level of lead.

The report has come with criticism from the toy industry; which noted that they are a highly regulated industry. The Consumer Product Safety Commission will make some toys that are currently available for purchase illegal to sell in February regulations.

Options for manufacturers, importers and retailers include having in-house screening capabilities to catch toys (and other product) with hazardous levels of regulated metals before they get to the shelves. The use of portable XRF and desktop systems can protect not only the businesses involved from costly recalls but more importantly protect the consumers.

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