Toy Recall Has Parents Wondering 'What's Next?'

Like many new moms, Catherine McNeil enjoyed watching her son as he played with the toys from his first birthday.

That was until she heard about Tuesday's toy recalls and was forced to take away many of the gifts that her son, Asher, received from friends and family.

"As a new mom, it's really frightening," McNeil told ABC News. "You don't want to overact and say, 'No toys for you,' but on the other hand, it's my baby and it's his first birthday and these are his first presents."

The latest recall, issued by Mattel Inc., affects about 9 million Chinese-made toys that contain small magnets or lead paint. Polly Pocket dolls and the "Sarge" car from the movie "Cars" are just a few of the toys on the list of recalled toys.

And this isn't the first toy recall that has caused concern for parents around the country.

Just two weeks ago, Mattel issued a recall for about 1.5 million Chinese-made toys that contained lead paint, including some of the popular Dora the Explorer figurines.

Having leafed through page upon page of recall information and eventually tossing out one of her son's favorite bathtub toys, McNeil said she has no confidence in foreign toy manufacturers.

"China is definitely not high on my list of trusted sources," said McNeil, who is a contributing writer at the Chicago Moms Blog. "I'm going to be a lot pickier now about what I let [my son] play with, whether it's been officially recalled or not."

What's a Parent to Do?

While the thought of children contracting lead poisoning from their favorite toys may send parents into a frenzy, parenting experts told ABC News that there are ways to protect your kids.

"Parents need to be aware, and rather than freaking out they need to understand what's going on and become as educated as they can," said Alison Rhodes, a child safety expert who's known by many on TV as the Safety Mom. "Get rid of the toys that are on the recall list, and use common sense when you're buying toys. When you see choking hazards and small pieces, just don't buy it."

Chrissy Cianflone, program manager for Safe Kids Worldwide, also suggests logging on to the government's recall Web site, where you can even sign up for e-mail alerts. Parents should be sure to buy only age-appropriate toys, nothing too small for those under 3. And if you have more than one child in the home, store each child's toys separately to prevent accidents.

"Parents get rather complacent, or they feel like they can never take their eyes off their child," said Rhodes, who has three young children herself and said that she, too, has been wondering which toys are really safe. "Accidents happen, and it's the same thing. I always say you can't be neurotic and paranoid, but you do have to have a healthy concern."

And for those parents who are still worried despite the recall, the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning has a simple solution to qualms about toy safety.

"When in doubt, throw it out," said Ruth Ann Norton, the executive director of the organization. "I think that parents should have a reasonable caution. And parents can be thoughtful without losing their minds."

Anxiety Brings Campaign for Change

While parents should certainly become more informed about the toys they let their children play with, the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning says more can be done to ensure future recalls don't happen.

"You don't want to have parents living in a state of paranoia about everything, but after the rash of recalls, almost all [for toys] coming from China, you start to wonder what you can really give Johnny to play with," said Norton, who added that the organization has fielded hundreds of calls from worried parents over the past few weeks. "At the very least, we need to immediately label [the toys] with the origin of the manufacturer so that parents can choose what they buy."

In addition to clearly marking foreign-made toys (80 percent of toys sold in the United States are made in China), Norton says legislation should be passed to require standards and guidelines in toy factories overseas.

"We might have to pay a little more to those companies to get standards or to put people in the factories to make sure those standards are enforced," said Norton, who added that a call has been placed to speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in hopes of garnering political support. "And we have to work with the Chinese government to make sure they ban these products for everybody, not just Americans."

Uncertainty Reigns

As the recall list seemingly grows with each passing week, anxious parents will likely continue to sift through their children's playrooms in search of toxic toys.

What is worse, though, even more than the immediate panic, is the unknown, parents said.

"I checked all the items that are recalled, and although we aren't affected yet there was just another recall this morning, so I'm just wondering what's next," said Stephanie Precoult, an Indiana mother who is considering completely clearing out her three son's toy collection. "How do we know what we have right now isn't bad and it just hasn't found out yet?"

"Right now I think I'm going to stay away from the toy store," said Precoult. "We'll be going for books for awhile."