FAQ: Working to End Lead Threats to Children

Update: After thinking it over for a day, WalMart decides to pull products nationwide.

Yesterday, CEH announced our findings of high lead levels in children’s products from Target and WalMart. After nearly fifteen years of eliminating health hazards to children and families from hundreds of lead-tainted products, we’re often asked how we go about this work. So we put together this video, and the Q&A below, to give a brief overview of how we go about our work. Take a look!

Protecting Children from Lead-Tainted Toys

Frequently asked questions

Q: How do you know what to buy? Do you get tips about products that have lead?

A: We buy a wide variety of products, but much of the time we’re looking for items that are similar to ones we’ve found with lead problems in the past. We also look for cheap jewelry, things made with vinyl, brightly colored soft plastic, and things that are painted. But if we get tips, we usually follow-up! For example, after a Chicago-area grandmother contacted us about high levels of lead she suspected were in WalMart baby bibs, our follow-up testing resulted in a nationwide recall! So if you have concerns about specific products, let us know.

Q: What kinds of products do you look for when you’re shopping?

A: We buy a wide variety of products – in addition to toys, we look for children’s clothing, jewelry, and other items intended for kids.

Q: Do you have any shopping tips for parents?

A: In general we suggest parents avoid toys and other kids’ products made with vinyl (PVC), which is often called a “poison plastic” since it can be made with lead and other toxic chemicals. Parents should also be wary of children’s jewelry, especially jewelry with vinyl or cheap metal components. Toys and jewelry with natural materials are a safer bet.

Q: Where do you buy children’s products?

A: We shop primarily at major national stores that most Americans shop at –from discount chains to big box stores and even higher end retailers.

Q: Do you do all your shopping in the San Francisco area?

A: We do a lot of shopping here, but we also shop at outlets of the major retailers throughout California. When we need to see if products are sold from retailers outside of California, we have had volunteers from across the country do spot checking as well.

Q: How does your shopping now compare to a few years ago?

A: Based on our shopping experiences, there were far more children’s products for sale with high lead levels before the 2008 federal law that set a national standard to limit lead in children’s products. Since that law has been in place, we’ve found that there are far fewer problem toys, although we do still find some problem products.

Q: Are there other resources that can help parents avoid potentially harmful products?

A: Yes, parents can check the database, which lists test results showing lead and other chemicals found in thousands of toys and other children’s products.