Toys found safer than 2007 holiday season

LOS ANGELES Last year, with all of the recalls, many parents were left wondering just how safe the toys on store shelves are. ABC7 teamed up with Consumer Reports and found that the situation is better, but consumers do need to shop carefully.

Toys appear to be somewhat safer than a year ago, according to a Consumer Reports investigation.

"Some big retailers have imposed new safety initiatives and strict federal regulations are being phased in over the next year," said Bob Tiernan, Consumer Reports.

In products primarily intended for children, new Consumer Product Safety regulations put limits on the total amount of lead to 600 parts per million, starting in February 2009. And that limit will be lowered to 300 parts per million in August 2009.

Some big retailers, including Wal-Mart, say they've already instituted new safety measures. Toys "R" Us says all new products coming into its stores must meet the government's 300-parts-per-million limit now. And a Consumer Reports investigation has found that products it identified last year as high in lead are largely gone from store shelves. That includes the red cuff on Fisher-Price blood-pressure monitors.

"We found a few of these in one store and one online," said Tiernan.

And there was no lead in the blue cuffs that Consumer Reports tested. While Consumer Reports tests last year found the caps of some Elmer's glue-sticks contained lead, a screening of these new glue caps found they do not contain the toxic metal.

"You still need to be careful because lead-tainted toys and metal jewelry have not been completely eliminated," said Tiernan.

Home lead tests can be a useful first step in screening for surface lead. Consumer Reports recommends these three kits: the LeadCheck Household Lead Test Kit, the instant lead testing kit from LeadCheck, and Abotex's lead test kit. But be aware they can't detect lead beneath the surface.

Consumer Reports cautions that even if a toy has been recalled, it can turn up in yard sales or online. And for any new product you buy, Consumer Reports recommends filling out the registration card if it's offered so that the manufacturer can alert you if the product is recalled.

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