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National Toy Database Offers Guide to Holiday Shoppers
Environmental and Health Organizations Call for Broad Reform


Contact: Mike Belliveau (207-631-5565) or Matt Prindiville (207-902-0054)

December 5, 2007 - The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine, a coalition of organizations working to protect Maine families from toxic chemicals, released chemical testing results for over 1,200 popular children’s toys today. Among the results: 35% of the products contained lead, with 17% above the federal recall standard for lead paint; 47% were made from PVC, likely containing hormone-disrupting chemicals known as phthalates; and nearly 3% contained the known carcinogen and toxic metal, cadmium. These results and others, available online at, www.healthytoys.org, were shared at press conference held by Maine environmental health advocates, doctors, moms, toy storeowners, and labor leaders to unveil the new database. The Ecology Center, along with other leading environmental health groups across the country, conducted the testing and developed the website to better inform parents and all holiday toy purchasers, and draw attention to the broken chemical safety system that allows thousands of hazardous and untested chemicals to be used in children’s products

Expressing frustration at the inaction by government regulators and toy manufacturers, despite the growing list of toys found to contain toxic chemicals, speakers called for sweeping chemical policy reform. “I’m outraged that the Federal government is protecting the interests of the chemical and toy manufacturers instead of my child,” said Elisa Boxer, a working mother from Scarborough. “Many of the toys tested were free of toxic chemicals, which shows that manufacturers can make safer products. It’s time for the state and federal government to act to protect the health of our children. As parents, we shouldn’t have to worry that the toys we buy our kids will actually harm them.”

The Ecology Center and other groups conducted the testing and developed the database because the federal law that regulates chemicals used in products does not prevent lead, cadmium or thousands of other hazardous or untested chemicals from being used in toys and other children’s products. Despite the fact that hundreds of toxic chemicals are used to make products that our children put in their mouths, play with, or wear, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has little authority and virtually no resources to regulate or restrict these chemicals. “Toys from China containing lead are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Matt Prindiville Toxics Policy Advocate for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “The real problem is that there is virtually no government oversight on chemicals used to manufacture any toys or children’s products – even those made in the United States. Policy changes are needed to keep toxic chemicals out of products intended for our kids.”

Babies and young children are the most vulnerable to toxic chemicals since their brains and bodies are still developing and because they frequently put toys into their mouths. “Toxic chemicals have no place in children’s toys, period,” said David Adams, a Portland physician. “We shouldn't be pretending that there is a safe level of exposure to toxins like lead or cadmium. Even low-level toxic chemical exposures can have lifelong impacts. Getting toxic chemicals out of children’s toys is a moral and medical imperative.”

Parents and other holiday shoppers can now search by product name, brand, or toy type (e.g. dolls, teethers, jewelry, bibs) to learn how the 1,200 products tested rank from highest to lowest in terms of harmful chemical content. While some toys had high levels of dangerous chemicals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury, others were free of these harmful additives.

“As a toy retailer and business owner, I’m completely stuck in the middle,” stated Cathy Anderson, owner of Briar Patch toy store in Bangor. “The last thing I would want to do is provide products that harm children in any way. But there’s no requirement that manufacturers test and label the products they sell to me, so I have no way of knowing what chemicals are in them, and I have no way of ensuring that my customers are not put at risk.”

The good news is that safe toys are possible. Many of the products (40%) 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 government agencies and toy manufacturers to urge them to phase out toxic chemicals from toys immediately.

“We can’t shop our way out of this problem,” said Mike Belliveau, Executive Director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center in Portland. “This database is an important and helpful tool, but real change will only come when chemicals are tested and regulated as they should be so our kids aren’t put at risk every time they pick up their favorite toy.”

# # #

*** ATTENTION JOURNALISTS: B-Roll and hi-resolution photos are available at http://www.healthytoys.org/press.resources.php. To arrange one-on-one interviews with experts please call Glenn Turner at 917-817-3396 or Rachael Neumann at 415-515-5753. ***

DATABASE HIGHLIGHTS

HealthyToys.org tested over 1,200 children's products and more than 3,000 components of those products. Researchers chose to test these particular chemicals because of their association with reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone problems and cancer. The testing was conducted with a screening technology -- the portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer -- which identifies the elemental composition of materials on the surface of products.
  • Lead -- When children are exposed to lead the developmental and nervous system consequences are irreversible. Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended a level of 40 parts per million (ppm) of lead as the maximum that should be allowed in children's products. Nevertheless, there are no federal regulations for lead in vinyl or plastic toys or children’s jewelry. The only existing standard is for lead in paint. HealthyToys.org found lead in 35% of all the products tested. Seventeen percent (17%) of the products had levels above the 600 ppm federal recall standard used for lead paint! The testing detected more than 6,700 ppm in Dollar Store animal figurines; 6,000 ppm in a Hannah Montana shoulder bag; 1,931 ppm lead in a Toys R Us Geoffrey brand doll; and 1,700 ppm lead in a pair of Circo baby shoes.
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC / Vinyl) -- HealthyToys.org determined products were made with PVC plastic by measuring their chlorine content. PVC is a problematic plastic from an environmental health perspective because it creates major hazards throughout its life cycle and contains additives that can be dangerous to human health. Phthalates are chemicals that are very commonly added to PVC to make it soft and flexible, however, they can leach out of the plastic. Exposure to phthalates is linked to birth defects of the genitals and altered levels of reproductive hormones in baby boys. There are currently no federal regulations limiting phthalates in children's products. California recently passed a ban of several phthalates in children’s products, and Europe has restricted the use of phthalates in children’s toys and child care items. 47% percent of toys (excluding jewelry) tested by HealthyToys.org were PVC.
  • Cadmium – Cadmium is a heavy metal that is used in coatings and pigments in plastic and paint. It is a known human carcinogen and exposure can cause adverse effects on the kidneys, lungs, liver, and testes. Currently there are no mandatory restrictions on cadmium in children’s products in the U.S. HealthyToys.org found cadmium at levels greater than 100 ppm in 2.9% of products -- 22 of the 764 products tested for cadmium-- including painted toys, PVC toys, backpacks, lunch boxes and bibs.
Healthytoys.org also tested toys for arsenic, mercury, bromine, tin and antimony, chemicals that have all been linked to health problems and have been subject to either regulatory restrictions or voluntary limits set by industry associations or third party environmental organizations.

The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine is a diverse coalition of Maine-based organizations that have embarked upon a multi-year public health campaign to phase out the long-lived toxic chemicals that build up in the food web and our bodies. Visit us on the web at www.cleanandhealthyme.org. Alliance members include: Environmental Health Strategy Center, Learning Disabilities Association of Maine, Maine Conservation Voters Education Fund, Maine Council of Churches, Maine Labor Group on Health, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Maine People's Resource Center, Maine Women’s Policy Center, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Physicians for Social Responsibility/Maine Chapter, Toxics Action Center.

Posted on 12/5/2007 (Archive on 12/26/2007)

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