Should You Test Your Children's Toys For Lead? No.

The Times is reporting that some overzealous parents are manually testing their children’s toys for lead. Take Andrew Jones, a well meaning but admittedly paranoid father to a 3-year-old:

Like many parents, Mr. Jones said he was suspicious of all of his daughter’s toys now that millions of items for children have been recalled for high levels of lead.

To put his mind at ease, Mr. Jones bought several LeadCheck swab kits from his local hardware store to test dozens of his daughter’s toys. So far, he has not found any lead.

After the jump, we explain why this is an utter waste of time.

Home testing kits are not reliable. If you want an accurate reading, be prepared to shell out $25,000 for an industrial grade scanner.

Don’t believe us? How about the CPSC, EPA, and CDC? Oh, you hate the government and only trust the private sector? Fine, let’s ask the makers of the home testing devices: “Vendors say that test kits are not intended to gauge lead levels but can be useful for parents.” So what exactly do they do? “…they can empower the consumer and help parents rule out a product.”

We’re all for empowering consumers, but parents concerned about the dangers of lead poisoning should focus their fidgety need for action on the lead in old house paint – a significantly more potent and reliable source of danger to children. For now, testing for lead at home has all the use of digging up the backyard in search of gold, without the prospect of finding anything valuable.

Some Parents Test Toys at Home [NYT]
(Photo: Yogi)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Takkun says:

    If you can use a product that convinces you something is safe, you’re bound to trust its accuracy (you paid for it, after all). All this person is doing is desperately grasping for some sense of security.

  2. myuu says:

    Teach your freakin’ kids not to put anything* in their mouths, not only will this prevent lead poisoning, but it’ll also help against pedo’s.

    *= obviously food, medicine, and non poisonous liquids go in the mouth.

    If your kids still die then your probably a crappy parent.

  3. TangDrinker says:

    I have seen parenting blogs that are discussing this lead test kit – it’s pretty expensive – and you have to run the tests on multiple parts of the toys – and it’s suggested you run it at different times during the year. I briefly thought of purchasing one to test some of the toys we’ve bought at yard sales, but then came to my senses.

    I’d be happier if the focus was more on bisphenol A in baby bottles – that seems more of a risk, in my opinion.

  4. TangDrinker says:

    @myuu: you don’t have kids, do you?

  5. myuu says:

    @TangDrinker: Even better, I once was one!

  6. Daemon_of_Waffle says:

    Don’t have kidren, then you won’t be paranoid and fidgety.

  7. Thingamadad says:

    Paranoid dad here… To blanketly say do-it-yourself kits are a waste of time and/or money is excessive. Are some kits less effective than others? Probably. Do some kits work? Probably. Consumers Union is testing the test kits and should have results this year.

    Once those results are published, I would appreciate this page being updated with a link to the results so that parents are not led astray with potentially bad, potentially harmful advice. And if all test kits on the market prove worthless (unlikely IMHO), you can gloat when adding the link.

  8. Jetfire says:

    Smart: Should You Test Your Children For Lead? Yes.

  9. Skeptic says:

    BY THINGAMADAD “And if all test kits on the market prove worthless (unlikely IMHO), you can gloat when adding the link.

    “Despite the recent rush to test toys at home, experts warn parents not to trust home lead kits for toys.

    “We don’t recommend them,” said Enesta Jones, spokeswoman for the federal Environmental Protection Agency. “Studies have shown they’re not reliable enough to tell the difference between high and low levels of lead.” “


  10. Thingamadad says:

    If a test shows positive, it can mean a number of things. It is cause to investigate further. The kits come with detailed instructions and information about false positives. Parents who read the instructions don’t use these kits with false hopes or impressions.

    Advocating against home testing is advocating for less information. No test is perfect, but that doesn’t mean parents should abdicate responsibility as our government has when it decided to neuter the CPSC.

    We can’t trust the CPSC to proactively test and identify dangers (instead it reacts when consumers discover lead on their own), and a professional home inspection if far beyond most parents’ means. These test kits are the best option available to parents. I’m using the only reasonable tool available.

  11. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    “Studies have shown they’re not reliable enough to tell the difference between high and low levels of lead.”

    I’m not a doctor, but do we want kids playing with toys that contain even *low* levels of lead?

  12. TVarmy says:

    Didn’t you guys run an article promoting home testing kits? At least have the courage to acknowledge it and apologize for what may have been a waste of time and money. I love this blog, but sometimes I question your editorial decisions.

  13. Veeber says:


    Are you referring to this article?

  14. dotorg greg says:

    I don’t see why people don’t just take out a home equity loan and buy the professional detector for $25k.

    Isn’t that better than having big government leave taxpayers with the $40 million tab for fixing the CPSC?

  15. Thingamadad says:

    Consumer Reports evaluated five lead test kits and found three to be “useful,” including the one I’ve been using. I guess I’m not “overzealous” after all.


  16. rich815 says:

    >>>After the jump…

    I hate that expression. Stupid.