Mattel reports that lead in recalled toys 180 times limit

Oriental Trading reports that a beaded photo charm bracelet it recalled was 96% lead.  The Boyds Collection Ltd. reports that the Eli's Small Drums and Liberty's Large Drums had lead at 2,395 ppm.  Target Corp. reports that its Kool Toyz Playsets had the following lead levels in the paint:  Discovery Dinosaur Habitat, 1800 ppm; Tiny Playground/Dream House, 1900 ppm and Air, Land & Sea Defense Play Set – 960 to 9200.  Target's Sunny Patch Safari Children's Chair had 21,000 ppm lead.

The lead level of 600 ppm for paints and similar coatings on children's toys has been around since 1978.  (And, I understand that the legal limit in China is actually lower – at 90 ppm – although I also understand that it is virtually never enforced and may apply to "accessible" lead as opposed to total lead.) 

Parents expect that the toys we buy our children to be safe.  But the truth of the matter is that the federal and state regulations do not require that toys be tested before they are sold.  Yes, there are regulations covering a range of safety issues.  But the industry is expected to comply, but isn't required to demonstrate or certify compliance. 

Contrasted against the fact that there is only one full time toy safety tester employed with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, I can see how we reached where we are now.  Okay, I understand that Bob does drop testing of toys, and there are more people in the CPSC's laboratory that also do lead paint testing, according to the testimony today.  But, it still seems that The New York Times was probably right when it reported the lone full time toy safety tester.

What can you do?  Well, first make sure that you don't have any of the recalled toys.  You can check the CPSC's website,, to see the list.  You may also want to test your toys.  Home lead check tests are available – you can purchase them at your local hardward store (usually in the paint section) or order them on line.

The EPA doesn't recommend the home test kits such as LeadCheck because they can give both false positives and false negatives.  But, if you follow the instructions carefully, you should have a good idea regarding your child's toys.  The LeadCheck kits only test for surface lead. 

The kits work by turning a color (in the case of LeadCheck, pink) in the presence of lead.  You break the lead reactive reagent contained in the test pen, shake vigorously, and then rub it on the surface of the toy you are checking.  If it turns pink, then there is lead.  It only tells you whether lead is present or not.  The color chart on LeadCheck's website,, shows the color changing at about 0.5% lead content, with low lead detection range below 0.3% (which is higher than the federal limit).  One tip – make sure you do the testing over a surface you can clean up easily – the reagent is a bright yellow liquid and you don't want to spill on your carpet. 


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