Tips to buying safe toys

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
November 13, 2007 9:00:00 PM PST
Parents are busy buying toys for the holidays, but in the back of their minds, they're wondering how safe are they?With more about what you need to know, Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

There are a lot of things not only parents, but aunts, uncles, grandparents and anyone wanting to buy a toy for a child this season should do and know. It does take a little bit of effort, but the kids are worth it. When picking out toys, it's important to make good choices.

It can be daunting for any consumer to buy toys for the little ones this season.

There was no shopping today for child advocate Rhonda Sherman, a mother of three. She was at a seminar at Mount Sinai Medical Center on toxic toys. Her biggest concern is lead.

"I think lead increasingly is being tied to Attention Deficit Disorder and other learning disabilities," she said.

And lots of toys have lead.

Luckily for parents, the information is all online.

One Michigan-based consumer group just tested 1,200 toys for lead levels. They reported that one-third of them had detectable levels of lead.

Those toys are all listed on their Web site,

Other Web sites, like the New York Health Department, have pictures and information on lead-contaminated toys to help consumers figure out which to avoid.

These Web sites can be invaluable sources before and even after a shopping trip.

"Parents need to be smart shoppers when they go into the stores for the next several weeks before Christmas," said Dr. Philip Landrigan, of Mount Sinai Medical Center.

There are some testing kits for lead, but experts say they work better on ceramic and plastic toys and may not be reliable on other surfaces.

"The caveats to that test is it may not test positive, even if lead present in those toys," Dr. Maida Galvez said.

The web also has information on good toys to buy. But what is the safest bet of all?

"My specific prescription for parents is to buy unpainted wooden toys, to buy sports equipment like baseball gloves and soccer balls and to buy books," Dr. Landrigan said. "There's nothing better for a child than a book."

Remember, children put toys in their mouths, so it's important that nothing dangerous goes in there. Lead is damaging to the brain.

Lists of bad toys can be found at:

  • NYHealth/gov
  • Lists of good toys can be found at:

  • Children's Environmental Health Center