Creative Consumer: Leadfree Toys for the Holidays

Consumer correspondent Elisabeth Leamy shares some toys that passed the test.


Dec. 10, 2007 — -- I have been in "lead land" since August when news first broke of Mattel's stunning recall of Chinese-made toys containing lead. As I covered the widening toy scare over the weeks and months, parents kept asking, "What should we do? What can we buy?" And it's been hard to give good answers.

The contaminated toys defy categorization, so there are no nice, neat rules of thumb. Home lead-testing kits can give false readings. And when we conducted our own analysis of 100 different toys, it took three rounds of testing to come up with a consensus because different test methods yielded different results.

But today, at last, I have a tool to offer parents so they can be Santas instead of Scrooges this holiday shopping season. A coalition of nonprofit environmental health groups has tested 1,200 toys for lead and other hazards. The results are posted on the Web site

The effort was put together by the Michigan-based Ecology Center in collaboration with the Washington Toxics Coalition and others. The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) also contributed. CEH is the scrappy California group that first brought lead in vinyl lunchboxes and bibs to the public's attention.

Of course, the groups found toys that contain lead. But by testing so many toys, they also found hundreds that do not. At this point, I think parents are jaded to further reports about toys that do contain lead, although we need to remain ever vigilant. But toys that tested clean? Now that's a gift to parents.

Here are some samples of toys that the groups' testing determined were leadfree:

To be responsible, I must point out that no test results are perfect because we've found the contents of a toy can vary in manufacture from month to month and lot to lot. That's why, when the Consumer Product Safety Commission issues a recall, it always contains a long list of qualifiers, serial numbers and such.

But at this point, any toys that have been vetted by third parties are good news for consumers.

And the Web site even has a feature where visitors can nominate additional toys for testing. Those that receive the most votes will be tested prior to Christmas. So keep checking back at as the list grows.

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