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Monday, December 10, 2007

Testing Your Own Toys for Lead - So Easy a Clown Could Do It!

Can you test your own toys for lead at home? That's a common question lately. It's been covered on Consumer Reports, and there is plenty of discussion bouncing around the blogosphere as to how well home tests actually work. With a new batch of toys coming into most homes this Christmas season, checking them for lead doesn't sound like such a bad idea to me.

I myself was really curious about the home tests, so I contacted a company I'd read up on called Homax. They have an inexpensive test called LeadCheck that did well according to Consumer Reports. Homax enthusiastically agreed to let me review their product. As soon as I got the tests, I lined up several of our toys, including two I'm posting a review on very shortly.

The tests were quite simple to use: Two small glass vials are housed in a cigarette-shaped tester. You squeeze the tester until the two vials break, shake it once or twice, and while squeezing the tube, rub the swab directly on the surface you want to test. If the swab turns pink or red, you've got lead.

Now, the thing with home tests such as this is you are testing for surface lead. It doesn't equal studies done in a laboratory that would find embedded lead. But if you are concerned as I have been that the paint on a toy could be scraped off by little teeth, then this is a great way to find out whether or not you have to ditch a plaything.

So did I find any lead? Yes, but not where you may suspect. All the toys I checked were fine, including the ones I'll share a review with you about. But after reading in the Consumer Reports article that lead can be found in brass keys, I checked mine out. One key turned the swab a light pink - not a drastic amount of lead, but enough to let me know it's there. And car keys are a common way to occupy a baby while on an outing. I've never been keen on this form of baby distraction, simply because keys seem like a dirty item to me, but I had no idea they could have lead! Thanks to the Homax test, I'll be telling my friends to keep those keys away from their little ones.

Overall, my advice is this: After the Christmas chaos has settled down, get yourself a few inexpensive lead tests like LeadCheck. Take the time to check out your new toys. Don't depend on the results as the final say, however. If you have a gut feeling about a toy that checked out okay, set it aside anyway. And keep an eye on the recalls! Unfortunately, I'm sure we haven't heard the end of them yet. Maybe with the help of some do-it-yourself lead tests, we can not only keep our children safer, we can publicize our findings to help other families stay safe too.

(NOTE: Despite my intense dislike for clowns, the above pictured passed the lead test.)

(Another note: Here's a helpful article to read by Homax as well.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The clown looks like Jo jo Circus.

I've used one of the test kits you wrote about - it works pretty well.

I found that is a good resource. It has the latest recalsl by email and also a guide to buying safe toys.