No doubt about it, there's been a LOT of press about toy recalls in the past year. As parents are scrambling to figure out what's safe and what's not, some new websites have popped up to help. Here are a few:
HealthyToys.org is a consumer action guide to toxic chemicals in toys. They test toys for five key elements that indicate the presence of chemicals that are linked to long-term negative health effects. Those five elements are:
- Lead - a heavy metal used as a stabilizer in PVC and as pigment in paints and coatings.
- Mercury - used in inks, adhesives, and in forming polyurethanes.
- Cadmium - a heavy metal used in PVC and in many paints and coatings.
- Chlorine - associated with the use of PVC - polyvinyl chloride.
- Arsenic - a heavy metal used as a wood preservative and in the production of fertilizers and insecticides.
Use their product search guide to search by name, by brand or by type of toy. You can even request that a specific toy be tested, although they seem to have a long waiting list.
Each product gets an overall hazard rating (High, Med or Low) based on the levels of the 5 elements. However, they do make it a point to say that their rating is NOT a specific measure of chemical exposure or health risk. It is simply a relative measure of the level of the chemical on the toy's surface.
We've got a tub full of plastic fruit in our house...all either from hand-me-downs or garage sales...so I was very concerned when I found a rating for plastic fruit that looked similar to some of mine (although mine is made in Malasia, not China). It was rated HIGH overall, due to very high levels of lead and cadmium. So, what should I do with my big tub of fruit? Since we're beyond the 'everything in the mouth' stage around here, my gut says we're OK, but honestly....this is tricky stuff.
The Consumer's Union (the publisher of Consumer Reports) has a website called Not In My Cart that is kind of a one-stop shop for information about recalls. It's got toys and other household products (and even some food) all in one spot. It's updated daily with the latest recalls. Photos of each product are included which makes it easy to tell right away whether or not the recall is something you've got in your house.
The mission of Not In My Cart is not only to provide consumers with an easy way to keep track of recalls but also to facilitate ACTION. In fact, they're calling 2008 the Year for Reform (2007 was the year of the recall). The website's TAKE ACTION page has a form letter for you to fill out and send to your members of Congress urging them to stop unsafe imports. It just takes a minute, so I urge you to do it!
MyThings is an interesting concept. It's mainly an organizational tool - to help you keep track of your receipts, warranties and insurance documents. But they've added a new service called MyThings Recall Alert in response to the flood of toy recalls going on these days.
It's very simple: Make a list of the things you own. Then, if something is recalled in the future, they will let you know by email. The service is free - all you need to do is register with your email address. I just might try this - that is if I remember to keep track of the UPC codes....