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Lead Toys: The New Coal?

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Suddenly, a little coal in your stocking isn't the worst fear for the holidays.

The recent recalls have left millions of parents terrified and wondering what to do (us included) with a house full of toys. Enter Meredith Stacy, an L.A.-area  Mom who not only has been testing toys and kid products at home for 10+ years, but showed us how to do it ourselves, and what to do if and when they test positive for lead.

Meredith recommends Homax Lead Check swabs, which are sold in the paint departments of Home Depot for $5.97 and at Lowe’s for $3.98. They're also available online at She suggested testing toys that are one year or older, especially vinyl. "Older toys are more likely to contain lead and more likely to be flaking or breaking down. If moms find lead in an older product, they need to contact their county. In California (and probably most other states), each county has drop sites for items containing lead, and some have collection days."

• If you have a positive result with a test swab that turns pink or red, you should call the Center for Environmental Health at 510-594-9864 or visit and click on "Contact Us." Give a full description of the product, the tag information including the sku number (near the bar code), the name of the manufacturer, and any other relevant tag data. Also indicate where and when the item was purchased. The CEH will buy the item in their area and use an X-Ray Fluorescence Analyzer (XRF) to determine how much lead is in it. If they are unable to find the product in their area, they may ask you to send it to them.

• After giving the info to the CEH, Meredith contacts the manufacturer of the product, the corporate office of the store selling the item, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. at 800-638-2772.

"Don’t always expect to be treated with courtesy and respect from the stores, manufacturers, and the CPSC," Meredith says. "They may not return your call or take down your info. Not only are you the bearer of bad news, but reports from individual consumers are not given much credence. But we should do it anyway so that manufacturers, stores, and the CPSC know that we (consumers) are ultimately in charge of what we consume."

And something positive from all of this: will launch Dec. 5 and will provide a searchable data base with a list of 1500 lead toys tested with the XRF.

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2 comments so far | Post a comment now
AndrewZela November 28, 2007, 6:25 PM

I’ve found to be very useful these past few months.

Mom913 December 20, 2007, 9:36 AM

I am buying only toys made in the USA for my kids and for their friends. is a very useful site. You can print out a list of toys made right here in the USA.

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