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One in Three Children’s Toys Tested by Ecology Center’s www.HealthyToys.org has Significant Levels of Chemicals, Including Lead, Flame Retardants, and Arsenic

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State Lawmakers Commit to Strong, Swift Action
December 3, 2008

Ann Arbor, MI - The Ecology Center today released the 2nd annual consumer guide to toxic chemicals in toys at www.HealthyToys.org. Researchers tested over 1,500 new, popular children’s toys for lead, arsenic, mercury and other harmful chemicals.

The Ecology Center determined that one-third of the toys they tested had “high” or “medium” levels of chemicals of concern this year. Lead was found in 20 percent of the toys tested, including 54 products (3.5 percent) that exceeded the 600 parts per million (ppm) state legal limit set last year and 164 (10.7 percent) above the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended ceiling of 40 ppm. Children’s jewelry remains the most contaminated product category.

“There is simply no place for toxic chemicals in toys,” said Mike Shriberg, Ph.D., Ecology Center’s Policy Director. “Our hope is that by empowering consumers, manufacturers and lawmakers will start phasing out the most harmful substances immediately, and change the laws to protect children from toxic chemicals.”

Michigan lawmakers have already committed to address the problem. Nearly 50 percent (54) of 2009/10 Michigan House of Representatives members officially signed a platform that calls for a comprehensive approach to addressing toxics in children’s products. The Healthy Michigan, Healthy Kids coalition is working with State Representatives to draft the Safe Children’s Product bill package, which would implement the platform. (The full platform and list of legislative signatories is available at www.HealthyMichigan.net.)

“I am committed to working with my colleagues to protect children from toxic chemicals,” said Representative Rebekah Warren, Chair of the House Great Lakes & Environment Committee. “I look forward to the swift introduction and implementation of the Michigan Safe Children’s Product Act.”

In addition to allowing parents to search by product name, brand, or toy type to see if certain toys have toxic chemicals, the newly redesigned HealthyToys.org site also allows visitors to create a personalized holiday wish list that can be sent to family and friends, and provides a blog-friendly widget that quickly searches toy ratings.

Researchers tested for chemicals that have been associated with reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone problems and cancer, and that have been identified by regulatory agencies as problematic. Babies and young children are the most vulnerable populations because their brains and bodies are still developing, and because they frequently put toys into their mouths. The testing was conducted with a screening technology — the portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer — that identifies the elemental composition of materials on or near the surface of products.

Highlights from the HealthyToys.org 2008 findings:

  • Lead is Still in Toys — HealthyToys.org found lead in 20 percent of all the products tested this year. When children are exposed to lead, the developmental and nervous system consequences can be irreversible. The Healthy Michigan, Healthy Kids platform calls for implementing the American Academy of Pediatrics threshold level of 40 ppm for toys sold in Michigan.
  • It’s Not Just Lead — HealthyToys.org found that 2.9 percent, or 45 products, had bromine at concentrations of 1,000 ppm or higher. This indicates the likely, unnecessary use of brominated flame retardants — chemicals that may pose hazards to children’s health. HB 4465, pending in the state House, would severely restrict the use of one type of brominated flame retardant. Arsenic was detected at levels greater than 100 ppm in 22, or 1.4 percent, of products; 289 (18.9 percent) of products contained detectable levels of arsenic. Mercury was found above 100 ppm in 14 (1 percent) of products; 62 (4.2 percent) of products contained detectable levels of mercury. The Healthy Michigan, Healthy Kids platform calls for no more than 40 ppm of mercury or arsenic in children’s products.
  • It’s Not Just China — HealthyToys.org has not found a consistent correlation between the country of manufacture and the presence of toxic chemicals in toys.
  • Jewelry — Jewelry remains the most contaminated product category tested. Children’s jewelry was five-times more likely to contain lead above 600 ppm than other products tested by HealthyToys.org.
  • The Good News — The good news is that 62 percent (954) of the products tested contain LOW levels of chemicals of concern, and 21 percent (324) of all products contain NO chemicals of concern. These products look and feel no different than other children’s products on the shelf. These findings show that manufacturers can and should make toys free of unnecessary toxic chemicals.

With millions of toys on the market, Ecology Center’s HealthyToys.org could not test them all. However, visitors to the website can nominate other products to be tested. The most commonly requested items will be tested each week leading up to the holidays. And, Ecology Center and partner organizations across the state are sponsoring a series of Toy Testing Townhalls with state Legislators and environmental health experts. The first is Saturday, December 13, from 10am-12pm at the Ann Arbor District Library’s Malletts Creek branch.

For press questions, please contact:
Mike Shriberg, 734-761-3186 x 108
Representative Rebekah Warren, 517-373-2577

***ATTENTION JOURNALISTS: B-Roll, hi-resolution photos and best / worst lists are available at http://www.HealthyToys.org/press.resources.php. A su solicitud, este informe de prensa esta disponible en español. El B-roll incluye a entrevistas en español.***

HealthyToys.org is a project of the Ecology Center — a Michigan-based nonprofit environmental organization that works for clean production, healthy communities, environmental justice, and a sustainable future.