Environment Picture

Ecology Center’s toxic toys campaign creates avalanche of awareness, publicity

HealthyToys.org site becomes a valuable parenting tool
The first consumer action guide to toxic chemicals in children’s toys was launched by the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center on the eve of the holiday shopping season—creating a crescendo of national publicity and awareness.

Working with environmental health groups across the country, the Ecology Center launched Healthytoys.org and publicized the initiative by publicly testing common kids’ toys. The result: More than 1,200 popular toys appeared in hundreds of news stories across the country and were covered live on outlets like CNN. Hundreds of thousands of parents and others went to HealthyToys.org to search for information on chemicals in products on their holiday shopping lists.

“The government is not testing for toxic chemicals in toys, and too many manufacturers are not self-regulating, so we created the nation’s first toy database to help inform and empower consumers,” said Tracey Easthope, MPH, director of the Ecology Center’s Environmental Health Project. “Ultimately consumers need to compel the government and toy manufacturers to eliminate dangerous chemicals from toys.”

HealthyToys.org reports lead in 35% of products tested, with 17% of products exceeding the federal recall standard for lead paint. Arsenic was found in 17 products, while cadmium was found in 22 products. HealthyToys.org also tested toys for mercury, bromine, chromium, tin and antimony—chemicals that have all been linked to health problems and are subject to either regulatory restrictions or voluntary limits set by industry associations or third-party environmental organizations.

The good news is that safe toys are possible. Twenty-eight percent of the products tested did not contain any lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury or PVC, including many made in China. These results show that manufacturers can make toys free of unnecessary toxic chemicals. HealthyToys.org provides specific guidelines for how to petition federal and state government agencies and toy manufacturers to urge them to phase out toxic chemicals from toys immediately.

The campaign was a catalyst for the Michigan Legislature to pass a bipartisan package of bills setting limits on lead in children’s products (see related story on the previous page). Michigan is critical to the national debate on toxic chemicals; several bills are pending in the Michigan Legislature that would phase out specific toxicants, and Congressman John Dingell chairs the Congressional Committee charged with overseeing chemical regulation.

“Michigan legislators need to take immediate, aggressive action to protect our children from all hazardous chemicals,” said Mike Shriberg, PhD, policy director for the Ecology Center.

“The demand from parents for information on which toys are free of lead and other toxic chemicals is overwhelming. Our testing is providing much-needed information that should be coming from manufacturers and the government,” said Easthope.

For a full list of toy test results, visit www.HealthyToys.org.
-Mike Shriberg, Ecology Center
RELATED TOPICS: environmental toxins
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