Buying Safe Toys for the Holidays
With so many toy recalls, what's a parent to do? WebMD talked to experts who offered their advice.
Safe Toys: Buyer Beware
Experts interviewed by WebMD urge parents to pay careful attention to the CPSC's recall list
and follow manufacturers' remedies for replacement or reimbursement.
They also offer the following tips on toys to avoid:
- Brightly painted toys (wood, plastic, and metal) made in Pacific Rim
countries, particularly China, because of lead paint dangers. Parents may
even want to shun brightly colored plastic toys made from molds, which have
been a problem in previous years. Children mouthing the toys for extended
periods can get lead poisoning, which can cause irreversible neurological
- Ceramic or pottery toys manufactured outside the U.S. and Europe, because
of lead dangers. If children drink tea from a ceramic tea set, for
example, the lead from the ceramic can leach into the tea.
- Many products from any countries outside the U.S. and Europe. Mexican
pottery and candy, for example, have tested for high levels of lead.
- Soft vinyl toys can also contain toxins, including lead.
- Toys with small parts can pose a choking hazard for young children.
Government regulations specify that toys for children under age 3 cannot have
parts less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long.
- Pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length, which can be
a strangulation hazard for babies.
- Magnetic toys, which can be swallowed by young children.
- All jewelry, especially metal jewelry, for children of all ages. Many
jewelry pieces -- even some marked "lead-free" -- have contained
dangerous levels of lead.
- Items that contain "phthalates," or toxic chemicals, such as
xylene, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and benzene, which can cause health
problems in children.
- Toys that are not age-appropriate. Toys intended for older children can
harm younger ones. And older children who play with toys intended for
younger ones can be injured when, out of boredom, they seek unintended uses for
Experts also caution that parents should pay attention to warning labels,
which mean the toy can be dangerous. At the same time, they shouldn't be
deceived by manufacturers' labels, which are voluntary and not always factual.
This includes labels that say "toxic-free" and "lead-free,"
Safe Toys: Widely Available
The good news is that plenty of safe toys are widely available both here and
You can find a list of companies that report selling American-made toys and
products at toysmadeinamerica. This site provides 136 links to toy companies,
many of which are small, family-owned businesses. Some are eco-friendly
For information about buying other products reported to be made in America,
For a self-reported list of products made in Europe, visit www.moolka.com or
www.maukilo.com, two online retailers that boast an extensive selection of
European-made products for children of all ages, including a variety of
Fun suggestions for older kids include acoustic guitars and instruments,
scooters, and a wide selection of purses, bags, and wallets.