Get the lead out

Last week I activated my new business credit card.  Usually not something to write about but the customer service person had several questions for me when she heard the name of my business.  Do I really need to take the recalled trains away from my son?  He really loves them.

So does it really matter?  The answer is a resounding yes.  The health risk from lead poisoning is extreme- loss of IQ, learning delays, permanent brain damage, kidney failure and death. Seriously, this is real. The CPSC reports that a four year old died from lead poisoning after swallowing a charm that had embedded lead.  Our biggest message this year is to be your child’s own consumer watchdog.  Check your playroom and anywhere else your child plays for toys that have been recalled. The complete list is at  We were surprised to learn that only 6% of toys that are recalled are returned (of course many would say that companies don’t always make it easy!).  The key is to make sure the toys are taken away from your child.  A reporter this summer asked me “but what happens if your child cries?”   The question floored me and stuck with me.  The message about the health risk clearly has not been made strongly enough.

The customer service person then asked the question I have really come to dread this season…so what should I buy?  This year my answer is not as enthusiastic. It also comes with a huge asterisk.

The majority of our scheduled Platinum Award list tested negative for lead.  While this is great news—it’s qualified.  We tested one batch of toys. Those specific toys were fine and you’ll find them reviewed on our website but here’s our concern. The same products six months from now could have a problem if something changes in the chain of production.  Until the government requires mandatory independent random batch testing, there is no guarantee about their lead free status going forward.

The good news – yes there is some. The lead issue is completely fixable. The State of Illinois wisely passed the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, that among other things bans both surface painted and embedded lead in toys and children products in excess of 600 parts per million. While lead poisoning experts indicate that even minimal amounts of lead can pose a health risk, at least it’s a start. Presently the federal government does not even regulate embedded lead that is used commonly as an additive in plastic and vinyl.

We are calling on federal and state officials to take up this cause and act quickly so that we can all go back to sharing toys with kids without the fear that we are bring home something dangerous, not playful.


7 Responses to Get the lead out

  1. Aari says:

    People have been asking me (I don’t know why, I’m not an expert) “if my kid is past the age of putting trains in his mouth, what’s the risk?” and this is a question I don’t know the full answer to. Lead is dangerous when ingested, and does harm in even minute quantities.
    I know this:
    Swallowing metal with lead content: POTENTIALLY DEADLY
    Chewing/sucking on something with surface lead: VERY VERY BAD
    What else do I need to know?
    It would help parents to know how much to panic and where to focus their vigilance because otherwise we become too overloaded to be effective. I was already fatigued from vigilance over the wrong kinds of plastics before the lead paint issue came up.

  2. abbe says:

    It is a true reality that we have come to the point of Stop, Look, and Test. Buying for children has become incredible hard, but whether it is the childs favorite toy and he/she will scream for days – so be it. I’d rather hear screaming for days then know I gave in and gave back a toy with lead. Before I run out and glorify my granddaughter with millions of toys this Hannukah season I will check the website. Oppenheim Toy Portfolio has guided me in buying the age appropriate toys for children, I shall continue to listen to their suggestions! Thanks for always being there!

  3. Myra Klahr says:

    Thanks for your continuing vigilance- This is why so many consumers trust Toy Portfolio recommendations!

  4. John says:

    Do you have any constructive actions that parents should take?

    I mean, you list of myths leaves a parent with no actionable steps to take. It basically says…don’t trust anything these days. Your work is great but as experts on the subject you should give parents reasonable actions to follow. Basically, you are saying that everything a child touches should be sent to a lab first.

  5. toyportfolio says:

    We wish there was an easy solution that we could give parents for this holiday season–but until there is more regulation and enforcement, toy safety will remain a real health concern.

    That said, there are lots of things parents can do this season. First, look out for recalls. Second, look for other safety issues you can do something about (small parts, long strings on pull toys, noisy toys, smelly toys, splinters and wood shavings on wooden toys, chipped paint on wooden toys). On the lead safety issue, we are encouraging parents to take action by contacting their elected representatives–and not allow this issue to suffer from “there’s nothing I can do about it” syndrome.

    Here are all the steps we suggest from our website:

    Given the severe health risk lead poisoning poses to children, we are calling for consumers to demand the following actions be taken by the industry and the government:

    1. The federal and state governments should prohibit the use of any form of lead in children’s toys, products, accessories and jewelry.
    2. The federal and state governments need to impose mandatory batch testing for lead and phthalates on all toys sold in the United States.
    3. Manufacturers must certify that toys they distribute are lead free. Products should be labeled clearly for consumers.
    4. Retailers must guarantee that the toys on their shelves have been independently verified and are lead free.
    5. Federal regulations need to be put in place for the proper removal and disposal of recalled toys..

    Links for contacting your representatives:

    * Congress
    * Senate

    What can you do at home:

    1. Check your child’s play room (at home, school, daycare, friends houses) for recalled toys. A complete (and constantly growing) list is at Please check this list frequently.
    2. Remove any recalled toys immediately. Check the website for the procedure for refunds/exchanges.
    3. If you are at all concerned that your child has been exposed to lead, have your child tested. Low-level lead poisoning is asymptomatic. Your pediatrician can do a simple blood test.
    4. Save your money. According to the experts, at home lead testing kits are not reliable.

  6. Helen says:

    Sounds like John wants to kill the messenger. Far as I can see, the problem is not with telling buyers to beware…the real problem is with toy companies that focused on the bottom line, forgetting they were making products that need to be safe. I bet a lot of consumers would be happy to pay extra for toys that were safe. Look what deregulation has given us!

  7. John says:

    I am not killing the messenger. Rather, I am looking for short and long-term steps that concerned parents can take to ensure that we are doing everything we can to correct this problem and protect the health of our children in the short and long-term.

    In my humble opnion, just as important as letting parents know that their is a problem, is to recommend actions that parents can take to afffect change today and tomorrow.

    I agree that legislation is the ultimately the way to impact most change. However, the recent number of recalls has me skeptical that the toys my child currently has in his possesion are currently safe, especially since new research states that levels of lead expsoure, under 10 dcl (current limit that CDC has for identifying excess levels) can account for 2/3 of the damage that lead levels b/t 10-30 dcls has shown to be harmful.

    In terms of the at home-lead testing kits – again, mixed signals. CPSC says not reliable but consumer reports says some kits are. Humn, who do we believe? An independent organization (Consumer reports) or the orgnization (CPSC) that has a ton of egg on its face for its complete lack of institutional control (ie one person in charge of testing toys for lead).

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