Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lead paint = fewer toys

More lead contamination in children's products, including dishes, toys, and glue stick caps.

The lead recalls have changed the way I buy toys--for the better. We put an instant moratorium on Grandma's favorite treat: the fast food kids meal. I may let a little spoiling slide, but if there's a possibility of lead in those cheap painted toys, I can shoot them down without a second thought.

Really, I should be grateful for the lead recalls! Rule out painted cartoon characters on everything we buy, and we've just removed a huge source of marketing to our children.

We shouldn't have to follow each detailed recall list for common sense about lead. Here are my new personal guidelines for buying toys:

  • No plastic items with paint applied to the surface.

  • No wooden toys painted in China. Period. (Still thinking about getting rid of all painted wood toys after the Thomas fiasco.)

  • No plastic baby dish sets or cups.

  • No ceramic tea sets or cups unless made in the US or England.

  • No cheap jewelry.

If I come to your Dora-and-Diego strewn house, I won't judge. Promise. But in my own home, the temptation to pick up more yard sale toys just became a lot easier to resist.

From the archives: Which toys are worth keeping?


Marsha said...

Just last night my mother-in-law brought over two painted plastic tube things filled with candy, one for each kid. My husband, without a word took one, read the fine print and told the kids the toys were "o.k." To answer his mother's quizzical expression he explained, "Both the tube and the candy were made here in the U.S. I'm less worried about lead paint with these and more worried about cavities. With cavities, though, I can brush and floss. Lead's another story." He went on to explain all the things he and I had been talking about relative to toy purchases. Whether or not she'll "get it" remains to be seen, but I feel so good that he and I are on the same page.

Ellen said...

Ok, maybe I just don't have all the facts here, but, isn't the amount of lead in the paint some infinitesimally small percentage point? With that little lead in something, Seth would have to suck on it for days at a time before it would affect him in the least. I guess I'm just wondering if American parents aren't going a little bit crazy with this.

Meredith said...

Wow, Blogger is having trouble accepting comments today...even on my own blog!

There is no excuse for lead paint on children's toys...not when there are non-lead paints available.

I'll be the first to admit: I'm a hyper cautious about lead, have been ever since we bought a fixer upper house. I have both kids tested for lead every year just in case.

Meredith said...

(continuing with the comment problems...)

Lead poisoning leads to irreversible brain damage. One friend of mine's children had elevated lead levels just from brushing by a painted antique cabinet.

Just imagine if your child accumulates lead from a variety of sources, some of which you may not even know about.

I've seen plenty of plastic teethers with the painted decorations worn down from little teeth. It's just not worth the worry to me!

There are plenty of other toys in the world.

Anonymous said...

The effects of lead are cumulative. In other words the poison builds up in your body over a period of time. Children under the age of 6 are especially vulnerable as they absorb the lead more readily than adults. There are several websites that information about this topic, this is one of them http://www.bchealthguide.org/kbase/topic/major/hw119898/descrip.htm
We live in an area where the predominant employer is a lead/zinc smelter and the children here are routinely screened for blood lead levels.

Hopewell said...

Judging by the things that were played with in our house I'd say the fewer toys the better. Waldorf-ish dolls and wooden sets are great. Stuffed animals rules the day in our house--very, very loved. They really like the stuff they create. Otherwise--keep it simple. My daughter's all-time favorite [still at age 11] after the stuffed animals is her chalk board/white board easle. This was FREE from a home where it languished in the baement--unloved! My son's favorite is his bow/arrow. He went thru several toy ones and finally has a "real" albeit "boy sized" composite bow. Bikes are good. Basketball and soccer ball and an "all purpose" playground ball. Stuff to create with. The rest soon becomes J-U-N-K. The one plastic thing we got lots of use from was, of all things, the Scooby-doo van and figures! Oh well.... Pitch a lot, buy even less! Books last!

Marsha said...

Back again - ran across this and thought you'd be interested.

Not always the most frugal in terms of the cheapest cost, but possibly in the sense of best value in terms of money and intangibles, but handmade/local/artisanal gifting can be a good choice in response to the lead and other issues relating to cheap imported toys: http://www.mahardrygoods.com/blog/?p=153

Marsha said...

My last comment today, I swear!

Here's another link you and your readers might enjoy, for the Safer Toy '07 Campaign (subtitled "enough plastic cr*p already")


Anonymous said...

I don't understand the Happy Meal ban. Has there been any evidence that there has ever been a problem with a Happy Meal toy?

Stephanie said...

I haven't read a lot about the lead poisoning stuff because I've been thinking it's such a small amount too...also didn't we all grow up with toys that were probably covered in lead paint??

Meredith said...

No, but look what types of toys have been recalled...small plastic figures with character faces painted on them. Exactly the kind of cheap toy you get in McDonald's happy meals.

Not to mention, this makes it easier for us to say no to the overpriced kids meal in the first place.

Azul said...

Thanks for this info, Meredith.

I watched the video; that FP Doctor's kit is at home in Chico's toybox. It's going in the trash as soon as I get home.

Kat said...

Hello Meredith,

I'm a long time reader. I really enjoy your blog... thanks for encouraging me to live beautifully and frugally.

Since you're on the topic of lead...(tried to find your email address, but didn't see it on this site, so I'm leaving a comment...) I was reading through your archives and saw where you said that regularly get tested for lead exposure (it was in the context of using house paint). Would you mind sharing where you had the testing done? There are a lot of reputable on-line companies, but I'm not sure who to go with or if a doctor will do this. Thanks so much!

Meredith said...

I get the children tested through their pediatrician's office whenever they have a yearly checkup, and our insurance has always covered it.

I would contact your local health department for the cheapest source of testing--perhaps even free. Lead poisoning is so serious, it's considered a public health issue for children.

Meredith said...

I should add that I don't mean to be alarmist about this issue. Lead has been a personal concern for me BEFORE any of this toy recall panic came out (as you said, in the archives.)

There is probably no great danger more than we had when we were children.

Then again, we used to ride in a car with two adults smoking and no ventilation, and no one thought anything of it at the time!

Kat said...

Thanks so much, Meredith. I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question.

Lead has always been a concern of mine too (not just the latest alarm). I haven't gotten around to getting my levels checked though. I'm mainly concerned with heavy exposure I had from using a lot of oil based house primers. Since I'm of child bearing age, I just want to get it checked out to make sure... Thank you again,


TheNormalMiddle said...

This may sound crazy, but I'm loving the fact my kids are getting older. They are really outgrowing toys, even my almost 4 year old.

Now they seem to be content with art supplies, books, the computer (a few games here and there) and just good old fashioned playing outside.

The dora/diego stage of plasticky theme toys seems to have ended in our home. I say good riddance!!!!

Tricia said...

Have you heard anything about Melissa and Doug toys?

bonnie: said...

Melissa & Doug's are made in China, too. I'd assume they aren't safe. I emailed the company and never heard anything back. ( I bought their toys as gifts frequently).

(ps, that was actually a hard "word verification" to decipher!)

Indie Pereira said...

Ugh. I just went into the girl's dark room and grabbed that stupid fisher price blood pressure cuff. I liked that toy. :(

Anonymous said...

My children are older, so obviously we don't have to worry about toys going in the mouth. But if they were still little, I know I would be one of those mamas banning all "Made in China" trinkets. We lived in an older home for a time, & I bought a lead-testing kit to check various surfaces...just in case.

Lead in the body is DANGEROUS. Brain damage is one of the better known effects of this kind of poisoning. Mothers eating food contaminated with lead can pass its effects to their unborn babies.

This whole "Made in China" fiasco has served as a wakeup call for us as Americans. We can, & should be, shopping for items made right here in our own country. It is not an isolationist perspective, it is not racist, or elitist. And maybe it will curb our appetite for "fast, cheap, & easy".


Cara said...

I'm waffling on a few things- I have a M&D wooden lacing set that needs to go, and a wooden painted 'vacuum' from when I was little that likely should also. And all hubby's old John Deer matchbox tractors need to be re-thought, I guess. But then, we played with them when we were little... I don't know.

Thanks for raising the issue again :)

Madame Coin said...

Call me crazy, but can you give me an example of what a painted plastic toy would be? Would say, a rubber duck's orange bill be applied with paint?

Meredith said...

Cara, I think I would have to buy a lead test kit before I'd throw out my husband's precious toys!

At the very least, you could artfully display them in a shadowbox under glass and away from little hands.

Emily C, it seems like that most of the recalls involve plastic figures with paint applied to the surface--exactly like a rubber duck with a painted bill. The duck itself is probably yellow plastic with a colorant imbedded in the plastic--but to me, it's the applied paint on the eyes, bill, etc. that is most dangerous.

Can you scrape any off with a finger--or a tooth?

If so, I'd get rid of it.

Likewise for vinyl baby bibs with painted decorations.

Indie Pereira said...

The vinyl bibs don't have to be decorated. The vinyl itself often has lead in it.

Me said...

Hi Meredith,
I feel exactly the same way. it gave my heart a little extra joy in the semi- yearly process of sorting and chucking toys around here.

TJ said...

Well we finally got hit. The baby set up that my mother in law bought for my daughter when I was pregnant with her brother was recalled. Now I have to find all 20 broken pieces of the set to take back. Sure I could just throw it out, but I feel that getting her money back will hopefully hurt retailers/distributors enough to start making sure the toys are safe in the first place. Plus my son just got out of the hospital after a 5 night stay (one in ICU) so the $40 will be well spent.