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Lead-Tainted Toys Take the Fun Out of Christmas Shopping for Anxious Parents

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While it’s not necessarily a quick fix, there may be a way parents can protect their children from unsafe toys containing lead-based paint this holiday season. According to National Public Radio, there are a few inexpensive testing kits out there that will allow parents to test toys for lead before putting them under the tree.

The test sets usually call for a Q-tip-type instrument (think CSI), to be dipped into a clear solution, which is then applied and rubbed onto the toy for approximately 30 seconds. Apparently, the more lead on the toy’s surface the faster the solution will react. According to Dave Lachance, developer of one of the lead test kits, Abotex Lead Inspector (which sells for $13), if the color changes to dark black it is indicative of high levels of lead. The solution can take up to 10 minutes plus to react to lower lead concentrations, Lachance said. Not surprisingly, the toy Lachance tested for his story came from China, from which many lead-based toys have been recalled this year.

Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, tested three other lead testing kits, which they recommend: Homax Lead Check, $8, and the Lead Check Household Lead Test Kit, $18.45. Consumers Union’s Don Mays says they found “no false positives and no false negatives” for the two kits that they recommend. These kits reportedly did a very good job of detecting lead, and Consumers Union confirmed the lead-test kit results with more sophisticated laboratory tests.

Consumer Reports approved of some of the test kits, but criticized that the tests only indicate lead on the surface of the toy and do not detect embedded lead. However, Consumer Reports warns that if your toy indicates lead remove it from your child immediately. Here is a helpful site at Consumer Reports that may help to guide you in all your shopping challenges: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/babies-kids/child-safety/indoors/kids-and-lead/lead-in-childrens-products-12-07/testing-the-test-kits/testing-the-test-kits.htm

Somehow, I remember a kinder and gentler kind of Christmas Season when all I had to worry about was reading those impossible instructions on how to put the toys together and get them under the tree in time. And whether Santa would like the kind of cookies I left out for him. Our children deserve better! Are we sacrificing price and quality in exchange for sloppy, cut-rate and dangerously manufactured toys for our precious children?

Byline: Carol J. Gibbons, J.D.

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