Toys that may contain lead can be made out of several types of plastic, rubber, or metal and even wood (basically almost any toy!) Additionally, many children’s fabric items have also been recalled for lead in painted zippers (Boppee Pillow covers) and painted buttons and snaps — as well as lead directly in/on the fabric! How do you make informed choices when there are so many hazards out there?

As parents, here is what Len and I have personally decided to do:  

  1. We do not currently purchase any toys made in China. 

  2. We patronize local toy makers that use safe techniques and natural materials.

  3. We shop at local toy stores that sell local goods or import from countries with stricter toy regulations than the U.S.

  4. We do not purchase any toys that have any kind of surface paint on them. 

  5. We do not purchase any toys that are bendable / pliable plastics or synthetic rubber, because (as it was explained to me) the way the plastic or rubber is made/kept pliable with a “stabilizing bath” that contains heavy metals and the cheapest heavy metal that accomplishes this is lead.  (An infamous example of this was the ubiquitous yellow “rubber ducky” that could well serve as the warning icon for these lead-containing soft plastic toys!)

  6. We bring a sampling of any suspect toys to toy testing events when they are available.

  7. We do not let our children play with sidewalk chalk as some samples have tested positive for lead and our children’s levels spiked once after playing in the driveway with chalk (not sure if the level spiked from the lead dust in the driveway of from the dust in the chalk - but as parents of lead-poisoned children, we can’t be too careful!)

  8. We NEVER shop at The Dollar Store or related / similar type of “super discount” store chain. (If/when they stop selling lead-contaminated imports, we’ll happily re-consider patronizing them!)

  9. We throw out any toys that test positive.

  10. We don’t allow our children to handle keys, brass beads or any metal toys that have or may have a high lead content.

  11. For our children’s birthday parties, we always specify “no gifts please” and we make the party more about an experience than about the toys/presents (pool party, nature exploration party, treasure maps, blasting off air rockets - that sort of thing)

  12. We got rid of all of our holiday light strands (after the announcements last year that they are all treated with bio-available lead dust for pliability and fire retardancy). This included getting rid of our Halloween lights (which were pliable plastic tubes with strands of lights in side) and our Channukah lights (typical holiday light strands with little bulbs and green or white “cord” connecting them.)

I can imagine that the first reaction to the list above (by many parents) is .... “Those Rubin boys must not have any toys!”  But I assure you... we have a play room FULL of toys - more than we know what to do with AND we are also constantly donating our extra toys to charity or others who will appreciate them (because we have so many!)  We also have bookshelves FULL of wonderful books and our children have a chest full of musical instruments which they love to explore.  They are very articulate children with scientific minds and a wide variety of interests.  We also spend more than our share of time riding bikes and playing outside, and on art projects with lead-safe paints, home-made play dough, paper projects, cooking projects and more!