Shop for a happy and healthy holiday season

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It’s that time of year: when many shoppers are off to the stores with gift lists in search of good deals. With the holiday season upon us, the folks at the Ecology Center thought it was time to conduct a new round of testing on toys to find out which toxic chemicals, if any, are still lurking beneath the shiny packaging and promises of door-buster prices. Their third annual consumer guide was released today, in partnership with the Healthy Legacy coalition (IATP is a co-founder), and various groups throughout the country. The results might surprise you.

What’s new this year?

This year HealthyStuff.org tested over 700 toys and children’s products-they do it because the U.S. government and toy manufacturers are not currently providing this information. It’s no big surprise that lead was still found in nearly 20 percent of the new products tested. While the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended in 2007 that 40 parts per million (ppm) should be the maximum allowable limit of lead in children’s products, the federal recall standard is 300 ppm-and 3 percent of the products tested exceeded that limit.

While it’s frustrating that many toys still contain lead, the good news is that there has been a 67 percent reduction in products with lead which exceed regulatory standards.

It’s not just lead…

Other chemicals of concern, like cadmium and arsenic, are also found in some children’s products (Read more about the health concerns for these chemicals.) Many toys are also made of PVC plastic, which is known as the poison plastic, due to the dangers it poses through its entire lifecycle (from manufacture, through product life and disposal). PVC often contains those nasty phthalates that make it soft and flexible, and lead, cadmium and other heavy metals are also often added to PVC products. The tests detect the concentration of some chemical elements, but do not test for all chemicals, or even all chemicals of concern.

What can we learn from this?

As much as this is a time for family gatherings, good meals and gift giving, it is also a time of reflection. The good news in this year’s testing is that the prevalence of lead in toys is going down over time. But that’s not good enough! We don’t want lead or other harmful chemicals in any of our toys.

The best gift you can give to your loved ones is to contact your senators and representatives and ask them to support a strong reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)-the outdated and toothless law that regulates toxic chemicals in the United States. Strong reform of our chemicals policy will shift the responsibility for the safety of chemicals and products back to the companies that make them. The Healthy Legacy coalition supports the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families platform for reforming TSCA. 

In the meantime, how can you shop safer?

The Healthy Stuff database offers a lot of good options for helping you shop safer this holiday season (and all through the year).

 You can: