Friday, February 01, 2008

Lead in toys: A year in review

The current Environews Focus published in Environmental Health Perspectives, Face to Face with Toy Safety by Charles W. Schmidt reviews in mind-boggling detail, the lead problem that blindsided both consumers and major toy manufacturers this past year. By now – who isn’t familiar with stories of exceedingly high concentrations of lead in the brightly colored glossy paint on Thomas the Tank Engine toys, or in the sparkling beads and baubles that little kids love?

Even though it’s an issue we’re all familiar with, the numbers reported in Schmidt’s review are startling. Here are a few: 42 toy recalls, 6 million toys (and these were just the one’s recalled), lead levels in some toys (primarily vinyl) upwards of 2,000 parts-per-million or ppm, that’s 2 part-per-thousand (concentrations of lead paint over 600 ppm trigger a recall. A movement is underway in Congress to reduce this number further.) Some of the highest concentrations are found in kid’s jewelry, which caused at least two cases of lead poisoning in children, one of which was fatal.

In addition to the lead threat, Schmidt also reviews the use of pthalates (certain pthalates are what makes plastic squeeze toys, bottles and other items squeezably soft) another ubiquitous yet less well understood class of chemical contaminants. Some pthalates are known reproductive toxicants, and there are concerns that such pthalates may act cumulatively, potentially additively – such that combined exposures to small potentially non-toxic amounts, may add up to biologically active and toxic concentrations.

It’s an interesting article also covering the Toy Industry’s and the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s response in addition to proposed solutions.

Cross-posted at Encyclopedia of Earth Forum


Anonymous said...


faust said...

did you know about the effect of lead on behavior twenty years or so later? lea has a higher correlation with violent crime than any other factor including class, race &c. in other words, for instance, Giuliani didn't 'clean up' new york - they switched to unleaded gasoline twenty years previously. the correlation is something like ninety per cent, as i recall. very interesting, thought you'd like to know.