Lead and kids don’t mix.
That might not sound like a major revelation considering it was almost 30 years ago when researchers first discovered children with higher levels of lead exposure had more difficulty following directions, more hyperactivity and lower overall functioning. Flash forward to the present, in the wake of Mattel’s (MAT) massive 10 million toy recall last year, lead exposure remains a hot button issue for parents seeking to safeguard their kids from toxicity.
But for caregivers in Washington, playtime just got a bit safer. On April 1, Washington state governor Christine Gregoire signed the Children’s Safe Products Act of 2008, reducing the allowable level of lead to 90 parts per million in the state. (The federal standard for lead content remains 600 parts per million.) “Parents and consumers have the right to know whether or not the products they are buying are safe," says Blair Anundson, program associate with the Washington Public Interest Research Group. "This bill insures that we avoid the worst chemicals while requiring disclosure from manufacturers about what else is in their products.”
The signing of the Safe Products Act comes at the heels of another major triumph against toxic toys. As of March 1, Toys “R” Us lowered the lead content threshold in its toys' surface coatings to 90 parts per million. They are also phasing out chemicals found in vinyl that have raised safety concerns for young children.
Regardless of whether or not your state is tough on toxicity, make informed choices at the toy store. Here are five of the best lead free toys.
1. Zome building kits: Made in the U.S.A., these construction toys are lead free and guarantee that your tots will show more aptitude in math and science, or your money back. The Pioneer kit is $17.99 on Amazon (AMZN). Recommended for ages six and up.
2. Beka natural wood toys: Hard maple blocks, puppet theaters, easels, and desks are just a few of the natural wood items available. Block sets start at $72 for 30 pieces, and are recommended for ages two and up. (If the thought of handing your tot 30 blocks makes you uneasy, the blocks are also available for purchase individually.)
3. Playmobil: This European toy giant has been selling themed action figure kits for four decades. Whether your little one is vying for the “Polar Researcher with Sled” or something simpler like “Children with Guinea Pigs,” you can rest assured they’re all lead free. Figurines start at $1.99 and are recommended for children ages four and up.
4. Vermont Teddy Bears: These bears are hand crafted in Vermont and come with a lifetime guarantee. Pick between an 11” cub, a 15” jointed or a 20”, 22” or 36” bear, and then choose from more than 200 themes including Latino and Pilgrim bears. You can customize your furry friend by designing their outfit or tattoo. Prices start at $49.95, and custom made bears start at $300. For ages two and up.
5. Melissa & Doug: This natural toy retailer sells more than 600 toys. Their classic wooden kitchen items include sushi and pizza party sets, as well as “fresh” fruits and vegetables. Food sets start around $15 and are best for ages two and up.