If you freak out a little every time your baby jams a toy in her mouth — how do you know what it’s really made of? — you’ll be glad to hear that both the United States and the European Union are taking new steps to ensure that their toys are safe from toxic chemicals. The U.S. is targeting lead levels, while the E.U. focuses on phthalates and flame retardants. Read on to learn more about what the new rules mean for the toys you buy.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is calling for a reduction in the acceptable amount of lead in toys to 100,000 parts per million or less. Back in 2008, the Consumer Product Improvement Act reduced the acceptable level of lead to 300,000 parts per million, and mandated a further reduction to 100,000 parts per million by August 2011, unless the CPSC deemed it wasn’t technologically feasible. The commission voted this month to go ahead with the new limit. Lead, which can lurk in all sorts of children’s products, is particularly scary because blood levels of the toxin that aren’t high enough to be considered poisoning — under 10 mcg/dl — have been associated with behavioral problems and decreased IQ.
The E.U. is targeting other chemicals, including phthalates, a plastic softener that may have hormonal effects, and flame retardants, which also may affect a child’s endocrine system, hinder growth, and is a possible carcinogen. The new legislation is also strengthening surveillance at borders, making importers and distributors responsible for toys that don’t meet the regulations. Another focus of the legislation: tightening rules aimed at preventing kids from choking on or swallowing toys.
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