West Hartford mom Elizabeth O’Neill waited patiently Wednesday afternoon as Chris Corcoran used a handheld X-ray fluorescent light to test her kids’ toys.
Luckily none of the toys – not even “Thomas the Tank Engine” – tested positive for chemicals such as lead, cadmium, bromine, or chlorine.
O’Neill was relieved since “Thomas the Tank Engine” is one of her 2-year-old’s favorites and lately her 9-month-old seems to want everything her 2-year-old covets.
While the three toys she tested Wednesday passed, O’Neill did receive a wake-up call over the Thanksgiving holiday when she learned that one of the toys her 9-month-old daughter had been playing with was full of lead.
O’Neill said she generally relies on brand name toys like the drum set her 9-month-old was playing with on Thanksgiving because one of her friends had specifically written that company to ask if the toys they made were safe. “They had given us their guarantee,” she said.
Polly Barey of the Connecticut Nurses Association said unlike food toys don’t come with an ingredients list and the problem is not just toys made in China. She said one of the most dangerous toys, a Halloween Pumpkin pin, was manufactured in the United States. In fact of the 17 toys made in the United States that the group tested, 35 percent tested positive for lead.
She said this is the second year HealthyToys.org has done testing and posted the results on its Web site. She said in just one year there’s been some improvement, but lead was still detected in 20 percent of the 1,500 toys tested. She said the good news is that no detectable chemicals were found in 21 percent of the toys tested.
As the federal government continues to fall short of regulating chemicals in children’s toys, state Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, said the legislature will address the issue again this year. “It’s sad that we as a state have to act, but we must,” he said Wednesday. He said he’s confident that this year the legislation will go further in regulating chemicals such as Phthalates and Bisphenol A.
Last year the General Assembly approved legislation that phases out lead and asbestos in children’s products.
Sarah Uhl, of Clean Water Action, said this year the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Connecticut is looking for the General Assembly to pass a comprehensive policy addressing all dangerous chemicals in children’s products because battling one chemical at a time is exhausting.
Uhl, who has hosted over 30 toy testing parties for parents, said there’s no consistent way to tell if a toy is made with toxic chemicals. She said a general rule of thumb is if it smells like a new vinyl shower curtain then it’s probably got chemicals such as lead or even Phthalates in it.
Phthalates are a class of chemicals used to soften plastic. Uhl said the coalition is urging toy makers to use alternative softeners, which don’t come with the hazards.
The danger this holiday season for consumers is that new Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations will make some toys with high levels of lead illegal in another two months when the regulations go into effect.
“Our hope is that by empowering consumers with this information, manufacturers and lawmakers will feel the pressure to start phasing out the most harmful substances immediately, and change the nation’s laws to protect children from highly toxic chemicals,” Uhl said in a press release.
Wednesday’s toy testing was held in the basement of the First Baptist Church in West Hartford which is also home to Our Children’s Center daycare facility.