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As the holiday season approaches, it is not comforting to find that Health Canada recalled  3 made-in-China toys a few days ago, due to high barium concentrations in surface paint. Over 26,000 of these toys were sold in Canada over the past year.

The recall highlights the possibility that even very responsible companies can stock products that may be harmful, and reminds parents to be skeptical.  Melissa & Doug, the U.S. company that distributes these products, offers many types of toys and even provides a safety statement as well as helpful information on-line concerning its compliance with US safety laws (e.g., including lead content).

Unfortunately, two other toys sold by Melissa and Doug were reportedly recalled by Health Canada in August and September 2008 (after over 300 and 1100 units had been sold, respectively), both because of barium levels in the surface paint.

One website worth checking out is HealthyStuff.org, a project of the Ecology Center, which tests toys and other consumer products for toxic chemical content.  The site is US-based, but many products are relevant to the Canadian marketplace.   Test results are provided for consumer products, including toys, children’s products (e.g., car seats, backpacks, pencil cases, lunchboxes), accessories (women’s plastic handbags), pet products and cars.  Products are listed by brand, type and level of concern.  Consumers can also “nominate” products for testing.

Goods are tested for arsenic, bromine, cadmium, chlorine, lead and mercury (but not barium!) and actual concentrations of these chemicals found in the products are published.  As well, concentrations of antimony, chromium and tin are reported where present at or above 100 parts per million. The site details the testing methodology used, but makes no claims relating to health risk or actual chemical exposure from a product.

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