If Buzz Lightyear, "Toy Story's" good-hearted space ranger, ever found a toy contaminated with lead, he'd make sure his boy Andy wouldn't have a chance to play with it. (If kids' bodies absorb too much lead, they may have attention difficulties, a lower IQ and gastrointestinal problems.) And at this time of the year, conscientious parents want to make sure Santa delivered toys that are as safe as they are fun. So here are some easy-to-follow tips that will help you make sure your kids have a great New Year!
To reduce the risk of exposure to lead in toys, jewelry and paint sets, buy North American. U.S. and Canadian manufacturers have safety standards set by federal, state and provincial governments. Although the Consumer Protection Agency has confiscated 8.5 million units of imported toys in recent years - the Canadian Product Safety bureau also monitors them - contaminated toys still slip across the borders.
If you want to use an at-home lead tester, Consumer Reports found:
-The kits work for surface, not interior, lead levels (still helpful);
-The cheapest and most expensive at-home lead testers were the most reliable;
-Low lead levels (still a problem) can take a couple of hours to register, while high levels show up immediately.
Also, make sure art materials are labeled non-toxic, which means they're free of hazardous substances. Crayon and paint labels should say ASTM D-4236, which indicates that they've been tested for safety.
When you're careful - just like Buzz always says - "Evil never wins!"