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In the midst of the toy recalls, a coalition of safety advocates tested more than a thousand popular toys for toxic metals and dangerous chemicals.

Their findings? The use of lead is widespread. It’s not just lead, and no one’s guarding the toy box.

Erika Schreder of Washington Toxics Coalition conducted some of the tests in Seattle, in cooperation with the Michigan-based Ecology Center, the Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition and environmental health groups across the country.

“In doing this testing we were really shocked at the number of products still on the store shelves that had high levels of lead and cadmium.” said Schreder.

Using a high-tech -ray gun called the XRF analyzer, which zeros in on chemicals and heavy metals, tested 1,200 toys.

“So we found 1,700 parts per million lead in the slinkies and 300 parts per million cadmium,” said Schreder, holding up the small neon pink minature slinky.

A small money from a child’s play set contained 6,733 parts per million lead.

The test found more than a third of the toys – 35 percent – contained lead. 17 percent had more than 600 parts per million lead, which is well over the recommended level of 40 parts per million in children’s products.

Nearly 50 percent of the toys were made of polyvinyl chloride, a soft plastic that commonly contains additives which can cause reproductive damage.

Other dangerous chemicals exposed included cadmium, mercury and arsenic.

The results are similar to random tests the Problem Solvers conducted in September at a home in Seattle.

We found many toys already in the home have high levels of toxins that can be harmful to small children who put things in their mouths, or can ingest toxic dusts from chips of paint that get on their hands.

In addition to their new study, local safety advocates also have a new ally in Olympia.

State Representative Mary Lou Dickerson of the 36th District in Seattle plans to introduce special toxic toy legislation in January.

“We think that testing should be required for toys and other children’s products, and that should be the responsibility of the manufacturers of those products,” Dickerson said.

The toy industry says the study is misleading, claiming just because toys contain certain chemicals does not mean they’re harmless.

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