Though it’s sweet and nostalgic to watch your children play with and enjoy the same toys you cherished as a young kid, you should think twice before handing toys from yesteryear down to your kids. According to a new study, many plastic toys manufactured in the 1970s and 1980s contain unsafe toxins such as lead, cadmium and even arsenic. The research, published recently in the Journal of Environmental Health shows that around one in four toys tested contained more than 10 times the current safety limits for lead. A full third of the non-vinyl toys tested had more lead and cadmium than what is presently considered safe, and a fifth of all toys tested contained arsenic. So which vintage toys were tested and which were the most hazardous for children? Keep reading to find out.


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Image via Flickr User kaktuslampan

In the study, the researchers note that pre-1990 toys are sought out and popular among toy collectors, but some of the individuals purchasing these toys are parents buying for their own kids or people buying for places kids frequent such as daycare centers, church nurseries, and waiting rooms. The researchers tested three categories of toys, including vintage non-vinyl, vintage vinyl, and more recently made vinyl toys. Examples of some of the toys tested included Fisher Price Little People sets, My Little Pony dolls, Barbies, rubber ducks, Little Tykes play kitchens and American Girl dolls. The study notes that 34% of the 77 non-vinyl toys tested would violate the current U.S. and Denmark limits on lead while 30% would violate cadmium limits. Oddly the color of each toy played a significant role in the toxicity of said toy. According to the study, the highest concentrations of both cadmium and lead were found in yellow toy parts. Green, orange, and brown non-vinyl parts were similarly likely to contain high lead or cadmium concentrations. Toys colored with red and peach hues often contained lead or cadmium, and peach plastic was especially likely to contain excessive cadmium. Toy parts colored with white, magenta, turquoise, black, and gray had very little to undetectable amounts of cadmium and lead. The researchers note that while specific pigments appear to be a major source of harmful metals in toys, parents should perhaps avoid giving any older toys to their kids, as there’s not enough research on their safety.

RELATED | How to buy safer toys for your kids

+ Hazardous Metals in Vintage Plastic Toys Measured by a Handheld X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer (pdf)

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Lead Image via Flickr User vintage 19_something