Safer Holiday Toys

Cynthia Dermody

girl with toy tractor

Photo by LisaAnnM

Two years ago, I had to package up every choo-choo, stop light, and railway building painted the color red from my son's Thomas the Train collection and ship it back to the toy maker because of a recall over lead paint. I freaked, of course, because James and Rheneas had made their way into my son's mouth on a number of occasions. All turned out fine; my son never developed any symptoms of lead poisoning, and the toy maker sent him lead-free replacements.

But as a consumer, I felt misled. Thomas trains are well-made of solid wood and they are certainly not cheap. I'd just assumed high-quality wooden toys had to be safer than plastic. As the Thomas recall showed us, I couldn't be more wrong. Not all wooden toys are created equal. Here are some guidelines from on how to gauge the safety of wooden toys:

  1. Make sure the label states that all paints and stains are non-toxic, and water-based in preferable.
  2. Make sure it passes the sniff test -- if it has a strong or undesirable smell, it's best not to buy it.
  3. Plywood toys that are adhered together are often made with toxic glues that can pollute the air and increase the risk for allergies.

There's even more information about toy safety on, and has a great list of safe holiday toys -- both important reads since the provisions of President Bush's newly signed consumer product safety law, which aims to make sure toys and products are tested properly and deemed safe before they go on shelves, will not go into effect in time for the upcoming holiday season. So many of the toys that will end up under the tree or in your child's grab bag may still be dangerous.

About 25 million toys were recalled in 2007 because of lead paint, magnets and other concerns. Are you letting toy safety concerns guide your holiday shopping decisions? How will you keep your kids safe?

And don't forget to add our Toy Recalls Widget to your home page, so you can find out about toy recalls as soon as they happen.

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