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First It Was Thomas. Then Elmo and Dora. Who’s next?

This summer, parents everywhere were faced with the unenviable task of taking some of their children’s most beloved toys away from them as millions of toys were recalled because of dangerous lead paint.  First, it was Thomas the Tank Engine at the end of July.  Just a few weeks later, Mattel announced that Elmo and Dora had to go too.  And just yesterday, seven additional toy recalls were issued, including one for more Thomas the Tank Engine toys, because of lead paint.  Parents are left to wonder, “What toy will be next?  What toys are safe?”

Washington state legislators and staff had the opportunity to find out today when the Washington Toxics Coalition and the Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition offered free toy testing as part of “Take Your Kids’ Toys to Work Day.” The groups tested the children’s products with an XRF or X-ray Fluorescence analyzer.

“Parents should be able to trust that the toys they buy are safe, but today they just can’t,” said State Representative Mary Lou Dickerson (D-36).  “The recent toy recalls clearly show that we need stronger laws to protect children from dangerous chemicals. That is why I am working on legislation this year to ensure that toys, shampoos, and other products are safe for kids.”

Toxic chemicals found in many toys and children’s products have been linked to the increasing incidence of developmental and learning disabilities, reproductive problems, and cancer.  Children are uniquely vulnerable to toxic chemicals, which can disrupt their development and cause lifelong problems.

“It is an outrage that toy companies are gambling with our children’s health.  The federal government isn’t protecting children—it’s time for state policymakers to step in and get toxic chemicals out of toys and other products,” said Erika Schreder, staff scientist with the Washington Toxics Coalition.

The federal government has been slow to act to protect children from toxic chemicals in toys and other products.  For example, the only federal law on lead in toys is thirty years old and only applies to lead in paint.  It does not regulate lead found in jewelry or vinyl (PVC) products like baby bibs.  The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission does not have the authority to test children’s products before sale and recalls are mainly voluntary.

Legislation is being considered this year in Washington state to require manufacturers who make toys and other children’s products to disclose the toxic chemicals in their products and to eliminate harmful chemicals from toys and other children’s products.  Numerous states are considering laws to regulate chemicals in products, including Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, and Minnesota.

The XRF Analyzer uses X-ray technology to nearly instantaneously detect the presence and levels of such known toxics as lead.

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Stephanie Stohler, [email protected]

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