Kids & Parenting

How to avoid buying toxic toys

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Baby playing with toy
While buying domestic is by no means a guarantee that a toy is safe, it does make it less likely that the toy has lead paint
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Keep your child safe.

Of course, it's not just parents who are worried about buying their children toxic toys—it's everyone! Think about grandparents, who feel they must rush out to the nearest store to purchase the latest and greatest for their beloved grandchildren—only to find a month or so later that the dreaded recall label has been attached to their loving gift! Let's face it: the problem is real.

Stay Informed

The first thing to do before purchasing a toy for your child is to be aware of those items that have already been recalled. The list of recalled toys is too numerous to include; however, there are several very helpful Web sites that will give you up-to-date information:

  • MomsRising.Org gives information on how you can use your mobile phone to check if a toy is toxic—while you're shopping.

  • allows you to search for toxic baby toys and toxic children's toys by name, brand and type.

Follow an Action Plan

Buy U.S.-made toys whenever possible.

While buying domestic is by no means a guarantee that a toy is safe, it does make it less likely that the toy has lead paint. According to Nancy Cowles, Director of the nonprofit Kids in Danger, "Lead paint is simply not available in this country, so at least when it comes to that one factor, U.S.-made toys are a safer bet."

Avoid inexpensive jewelry and play cosmetics.

Those small lipsticks and pressed powders may look cute, but many of them are full of dangerous chemicals. "Read the labels of all play cosmetics and avoid products with xylene, toluene, or dibutyl," U.S. PIRG advises. And when it comes to inexpensive jewelry, just say no. More than 150 million pieces of cheap jewelry were recalled in 2004 alone.

Buy toys made of natural, organic products.

      • Wood toys can be wonderful, but make certain they do not have any toxic paints or finishes. They should be made of solid wood, not plywood, particle board, etc., which contain toxic adhesives.
      • The wood should not be pressure treated or contain any insecticides. Organic wood is best, and sustainable grown wood is even better for the environment.

Cloth toys are great, but there are some things you should look out for.

      • To reduce the chances of your child ingesting toxic chemicals, stick to natural fibers such as cotton, hemp and wool. The toys should be made of organic cloth, since conventional fibers can contain pesticides.
      • Wash the toys thoroughly before letting your child play with them. To kill any microbs that may accumulate on cloth toys, put them in the dryer on high heat.
      • Also, be sure they are colored with non-toxic dyes.

With due diligence, you can find great gifts—not toxic toys—for your children.

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