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Holiday shoppers walk the aisles of the toy section at a store in New Jersey.
One in three toys tested by a Michigan nonprofit group contained medium or high levels of toxic chemicals, according to a report released Wednesday. And U.S.-made children's toys didn't necessarily contain fewer toxins than their imported counterparts.
The Ecology Center tested 1,500 stuffed animals, books, games, action figures and other products. Jeff Gearhart, who led the Healthy Toys study, said one-third of the toys — about 500 — contained significant levels of lead, arsenic and other chemicals. The results showed no consistent correlation between the presence of toxic chemicals in toys and where they were made or how much they cost.
"The one exception to that rule would be cheap children's jewelry," he said. "We found that jewelry is five times as likely to have elevated levels of lead in it than any of the other products we tested."
Infant books and bath toys are among other products that received poor scores.
Last year, a number of toys made in China were recalled because of toxic chemicals. In the most recent survey, 21 percent of toys made in China and 16 percent made elsewhere contained high or moderate levels of lead. Of the U.S.-made toys tested, 35 percent had detectable levels of lead.
However, Gearhart said about half as many of the toys tested this year contained lead, compared with last year. Still, toys containing certain plasticizers — which will be banned beginning in February — remain on store shelves.
At a Seattle-area drug store, Natasha Freidus, the mother of a 1-year-old, was frustrated to find vinyl baby books that may contain the soon-to-be-banned chemical.
"It's not just about not knowing what's in the toys," she said. "As a parent, I feel like I shouldn't have to know exactly what's in the toys. I should know that if it's a toy for a baby, I can give it to my baby and feel comfortable with it."
She and other parents will get some relief when stricter regulations and new government oversight go into effect next year.