HealthyToys.org is an organization created by the Ecology Center that tests children’s toys for harmful contents. Based in Michigan, it’s a “nonprofit environmental organization that works at the local, state, and national levels for clean production, healthy communities, environmental justice, and a sustainable future.” They are able to test products for chemical elements including lead, cadmium, chlorine, arsenic, mercury, tin, and antimony by using a handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) machine. Using the information gathered about the elemental composition of the toys, HealthToys.org’s team is then able to determine if there are potentially hazardous chemicals or toxic materials involved. The tested product is then rated into one of three categories (low, medium, and high) based on the hazardous contents.
In 2008 alone, HealthToys.org tested over 1,500 children’s products and toys. The results of any tested item can be found on their user friendly website as well as information on chemicals of concern and how to take action against harmful materials being used in toys. You can view their toy database by Brand or Type, as well as through a search engine. Realizing that you may not always have a computer available, HealthyToys.org has even gone so far as to include a text messaging system that allows you to get safety information on a specific toy.
I tested their text messaging system first by sending “HealthyToys Baby Einstein musical motion activity jumper” to 41411. Instantaneously, I received a message back with instructions on how to opt out of their texting system. A moment after that, I received a message stating “Sorry, no matches. Try a new search, like: healthytoys Wii; healthytoys Elmo.” I checked their website, and sure enough, they haven’t reviewed the Baby Einstein jumper. I found a toy that we have that they have reviewed, and sent that message next: “HealthyToys Munchkin super safety ducky.” Again, the same message as before. While the texting service is a great idea for when you’re out and about toy shopping, I’m not sure the glitches are worked out just yet.
If you do find that they haven’t tested a toy you need to know about, HealthyToys.org does offer links to places that provide you with information on conducting the testing yourself. You can also fill out an online form and “nominate” a toy for HealthyToys.org to test. This website is a great resource for anyone who’s got a kid in his or her life and I must recommend it even if they are missing some children’s products on here. Thankfully, if they can’t answer my questions, they offer a lot of links outside of their own organization that should be able to, including recall lists and information about lead warnings. Check it out, and be sure to let other people know about it—who knows? It may save a child from becoming sick!