Liberty Goodwin, Director

P.O. Box 40441, Providence, RI 02940

Tel. 401-351-9193, E-Mail:


(Lighting the Way to Less Toxic Living)



By Mike Shriberg, Ecology Center. Posted December 5, 2007.

It's not just imported toys that carry harmful chemicals, but brand-name, U.S.-manufactured ones too. One organization is helping shoppers identify non-toxic toys.

Are the toys on your holiday gift list safe? Are they already on a recall list or should they be? As a parent, I am more than a little alarmed at recent developments. In August, Fischer Price recalled almost one million Chinese-made Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street character toys due to "impermissible levels of lead." Mattel followed in September with the callback of 675,000 Barbie accessory toys for the same reason.

Now it looks as if the summer spike in toxic toys is turning into a trend. In October, for example, Jo-Ann Stores expanded their recall of over 100,000 children's toy gardening tools. And by early November, two different companies recalled 760,000 toy cars and action figures sold at Dollar Stores, while Marvel Toys called back 175,000 Curious George plush dolls.

But it's not just toys from China that concern me, and it's not just lead. Many names I once trusted and invited into my home to amuse and entertain my two-year-old daughter -- Thomas, Polly, Elmo, Ernie, Winnie and Hannah, to name a few -- are now suspect. All the toy manufacturers, suppliers, shippers, retailers, and their regulatory overseers have to offer are recalls, many of which are voluntary. I'd hardly call that protection against the hazards of chemical exposure.

I am especially concerned about the threats posed by toxic toys because babies and young children are affected more than any other age group by exposure to hazardous chemicals. Their smaller size means that it takes less of a substance to poison them and their developing bodies make them more susceptible to permanent harm. Add to it the fact that younger kids often put toys directly into their mouths.

That's why the Ecology Center researched and built a new online resource to help holiday shoppers identify non-toxic toys. features research, test results and ratings of hundreds of toys, jewelry items and other children's products, from action figures to backpacks. Items are evaluated based on their levels of lead, PVC, cadmium, mercury, antimony and other toxic chemicals associated with hormone and reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, asthma, and cancer.

While Ecology Center research finds that many toys are free of these harmful substances, test results on a significant number of products show troubling levels of toxicity. A few examples: The plastic pink cheeks of 'My Little Sunshine Mirror,' made by Sassy for "birth-plus" age group, tested at 5800 parts per million (ppm) of brominated flame retardants, 204 ppm of antimony, and 859 ppm of lead. Wonder World of Nature's 'Tyrannosaurus' had 1167 ppm of antimony, while the fabric of Royal Designs' Kids' Slippers had 1363 ppm of lead. A Hannah Montana shoulder bag registered more than 6000-ppm lead, and tests detected up to 400 ppm of cadmium in play food and 180 ppm in a costume. Nobody wants this outrageous amount of toxic chemicals in their children's mouths.

Our research found lead and other chemicals in cheap toys as well as in major brand names, in U.S.-made toys as well as those imported from abroad. Which leads us to one conclusion: Our chemical regulatory system is broken and needs to be fixed. There is virtually no government oversight on any chemicals used to make any children's products -- even those made in the United States.

When the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission was formed in the 1970s, it had 800 employees and a robust budget. Today, the agency has a full-time staff of a little over 400 people. And in real dollars, their budget is actually smaller. While imports from China have nearly quadrupled in the last 10 years, the CPSC currently deploys just 15 people at U.S. ports and has only one toy inspector for the entire agency. Further, the CPSC has little authority to regulate or restrict harmful chemicals.

Currently, legal responsibility for toy safety rests with the toy-sellers in the United States. Companies are required to adhere to safety standards but reporting violations is voluntary. In the case of Mattel's toy-truck recall, the company actually entrusted the testing of those toys to the very outsourced factory that was producing them. That amounts to the fox guarding the henhouse. And Mattel has a reputation for being one of the more responsible toy manufacturers.

The recent rash of toy recalls is a wake-up call to American consumers. It should also be a call to action. Visit to find out how to promote pending state and national legislation to better regulate some of these harmful chemicals. There are also sample letters and mailing addresses to manufacturers urging them to disclose and phase out hazardous chemical content from their products.

For the holidays, don't be afraid to include toys on your shopping list, just make sure to check it twice at

Mike Shriberg is the Policy Director at the Ecology Center.



Online and Convenient Solution to Shop for Unsafe Toys
Posted by: schetikos on Dec 5, 2007 4:38 AM   

For consumers that want to take action, there are alternatives. Also, the HealthyToys site is a great resource for our online store because NOT A SINGLE toy on their bad list is carried on our site whatsoever.

You can shop safely by visiting Toys Not Made in China The toys are listed by Country, and for the US makers, also includes the State.

What's even more important is how do we detox from the crack-like feeling you get when you walk into a Wal-Mart with your kids?  To detox, we have to change where we hang out or at least bring our children. Secondly, sites like ours don't have million dollar ad budgets, like Mattel and other makers to push Aqua Dots, so we rely on people giving us their genuine support.

What has happened with Chinese imports is analagous to the new movie American Gangster where the streets of NYC are flooded with heroin.  This is in essence what Chinese companies have done and will continue to do UNLESS we change our mental model and go from talk to action (using alternatives) or inaction and reduce dramatically your purchases from China. Toys is a great place to start and you can do so year round. Toys Not Made in China


Posted by: Prairie Waif on Dec 5, 2007 6:26 AM   

I am quite sure that I saved this information from an earlier posting here on Alternet.

Here is the cut/paste I posted to another blog as I FINALLY found a safe place, and NOT offshore, to buy toys!

For example, a web site called lists dozens of internet locations for all sorts of gifts you can buy for the tykes on your list - dolls, doll houses, wooden trains, space-age action toys, playscapes, puppets, puzzles, banjos, books, board games, tutus, marbles, pogo sticks, skateboards, wiffle balls, play kitchens, and so much more, made right here by Americans. Also check out, and to point you in the right direction.



This should be easy
Posted by: garym on Dec 5, 2007 6:59 AM   

Since 80% of toys consumed in the US are made in China AND LESS THAN 1/10th OF 1% OF THEM have been recalled for problems...I think it should be pretty easy to avoid them.


Yes says Santa Cheney
Posted by: etisoppa on Dec 5, 2007 8:55 AM   

He is willing to replace the lead-free toys with DU toys. How's that!

He will stat with the Iranians etc. You will just have to stand in line and wait your turn.

Posted by: chaoslegs on Dec 5, 2007 9:13 AM   

Best toy ever, IMHO :)


On the light side
Posted by: willymack on Dec 5, 2007 11:59 AM   

A new christmas song, "All I want for christmas is some lead-free toys could be sung to the tune of Spike Jones' song "all I want for christmas is my two front teeth".

Thank you, Ecology Center!
Posted by: boygranddakar on Dec 5, 2007 12:51 PM   

This is an AMAZING resource, and I'm so glad the Ecology Center is doing this work. The author is right, however, that at the U.S. government should be doing this kind of testing and, furthermore, should ban PVC and phthalates from all children's toys, both those made in the U.S. and imported from abroad.

Europe, which is guided by the Precautionary Principle, has much more stringent health standards for children's toys. I have been getting wooden toys made in Germany, for example. There is absolutely no reason why the U.S. should not adopt the same standards -- unless there's some reason we want our kids to have lowered intelligence and higher cancer rates?

Made in the USA is hardly a guarantee for safety! Write your reps and tell them that the current standards are shameful and that you expect them to take action to protect children's health.

This story from

Beware the Cookware
Posted by: cashelboylo on Dec 5, 2007 9:17 PM   

It's not just toys and make-up and food.  My Chinese-made stainless steel frypan opened a hole while I was cooking over an electric hotplate. Mercifully the pan was full of water and not oil.  My Chinese-made cast-iron frypan then cracked in half. Again I was lucky and got it off the stove before it set the house alight.  In both cases, the cause is surely that Chinese manufacturers are cheating on the metallurgical specification and fattening the metal mix with base metals.  I believe they use zinc in stainless steel and lead in cast-iron.  The result is that every time you cook in a Chinese-made pan, you lace your food with zinc or lead. A continuous toxic poison feed for you and all your family.