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Heavy Metals in Children’s Toys

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging Congress to address the heavy metals in children’s products.

Two years after Congress passed a law setting comprehensive limits on lead in children’s products, the government needs to address other heavy metals in such products, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) testified Thursday morning.

As a result of lead limits established by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008, manufacturers have begun adding cadmium, a known carcinogenic, to children’s products, said Dr. H. Garry Gardner before a Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection.

”This is clearly a case of abiding by the letter but not the spirit of the law — Congress hardly intended for companies to substitute one poison for another,” Gardner said.

The AAP recommended that eight heavy metals in American Society for Testing and Materials’s voluntary toy safety standards should undergo rigorous review by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Any standards issued as part of the review should apply to all children’s products and not just toys, the AAP said.

The AAP also asked the CPSC to consider requirements for secure closures on devices containing small, powerful magnets that can result in major damage to the esophagus and possibly death. Nearly 8,700 “button battery” incidents were reported between 1990 and 2008, of which 62 percent involved children under the age of six, Gardner testified.

What are heavy metals?

Heavy metals are individual metals and metal compounds that can affect people’s health. In very small amounts, many of these metals are necessary to support life. However, in larger amounts, they become toxic.

Some toxic chemicals to be aware of are Arsenic, Beryllium, Cadmium, Lead, Mercury, Hexavalent Chromium. Although it’s not listed as a toxin on the sites that test toys, some scientists and pediatricians suggest avoiding bottles and dinnerware made with Bisphenol-A.

Inexpensive jewelry made in China appears to take the lead in toys with toxic metals.

Consumer Reports offers these tips for avoiding heavy metals:

-Don’t allow children to have or play with cheap metal jewelry.

-Take an inventory of your children’s toys and check them against the recall list at, which has photos and descriptions of products recalled for lead or cadmium. Also check the list if you’re buying used items.

-Consider do-it-yourself test kits, which can be useful though limited screening tools.

-Don’t drink from garden hoses, which might contain lead that can leach into water. As a precaution, wash your hands immediately after handling power cords, extension cords, and even strings of holiday lights.

For a list of toys that have been tested for toxic chemicals and found free from heavy metals check out

With Holiday shopping already underway, make sure the toys you give to the little ones in your family are safe.

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