How to Avoid Lead in Toys

When your baby is not sleeping, eating, or crying, they are most likely playing. A baby’s mind is growing and learning at an astounding rate. Simple play time is critical for your baby to learn how to interact in their new world. This wonderful world is full of fun and potentially hazardous elements.

If you have entered a toy store lately, you are well aware of the variety of the toys available for your children. The basics of a healthy toy are widely published:

  • Watch out for toys with small parts that can be swallowed.
  • Avoid toys with long ropes or elastic bands that can be a choking hazard.
  • Avoid toys that involve shooting projectiles and sharp objects.

Lead in Toys

The news lately has been full of stories of products imported from overseas that contain lead based paint finishes. This is, and should be, unnerving.

Lead is harmful to humans of all ages, but its effects can be especially severe on a developing child. Contact with high levels of lead has been linked to child retardation and behavioral problems. For this reason, it was banned from use in the United States in 1978.

So why is lead paint returning to the forefront of child safety 30 years later? The majority of the toys (and many other products for that matter) are manufactured overseas in countries like India, China, and Taiwan. China has been in the news of late as major toy companies have had recall after recall of toys containing lead based paint that were manufactured there. The laws in China with regards to lead paint is actually more strict than those of the United States. The problem lies in Chinese officials enforcing these laws. Lead based paint is less expensive and therefore an attractive alternative for manufacturers.

Plastic Toys
Along with lead based paints, parents should be aware of chemically laden plastics. Most notable of these chemicals are phthalates and bisphenal A (BPA). Simply put, avoid buying plastic and painted toys manufactured overseas whenever possible. Although it is difficult at best to determine the exact chemical makeup of the plastics found in stores, try to purchase PVC free toys whenever possible.

Heirloom Toys
Family heirlooms are another potential source of toys coated with lead paint. Many toys that have been passed down from earlier generations can have potentially harmful levels of lead and or mercury. Heirloom toys can be a great way for the family to come together. However, some toys should be left under glass or on the shelf.

Toy Shopping Tips

  • Think quality first. Try to buy simple, handmade toys that are “heirloom” quality. Most of the inexpensive plastic toys do not have much of a shelf life in the home and end up in your local landfill.
  • Less is more. Buy simple toys without all of the bells and whistles and buy fewer of them. Simple toys are less likely to malfunction and will not require you to spend a fortune on batteries. Simple toys will also stimulate your child’s imagination and enable free play. Fewer toys as well and reduce the clutter in your home.
  • Select toys with unfinished hardwood products. This prevents paints, plastics, and chemicals from ending up in your child’s mouth. A recent study found that 1 in 3 toys contained some levels of lead.