Introduction to Tamara Rubin
(for those new to this website!)
Tamara Rubin lives in Portland, Oregon and is a child health advocate, author, documentary filmmaker, and mother of four sons. Her young men are now 24, 18, 15, and 12. She has won multiple national awards for her Lead-poisoning prevention advocacy work (including two from U.S. government agencies). As of November 15, 2020, she has had more than 1.5 million unique individual readers visit her blog in the past 12 months (with over 3.5 million page views!) – from more than 200 countries (per Google Analytics) around the world!
It is with the help, support, and participation of these readers that she conducts and reports on independent testing of consumer goods for toxicants (Lead, Mercury, Arsenic, Cadmium, and Antimony), using high-accuracy X-Ray Fluoresence analysis (read more about that here). She goes by #LeadSafeMama on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram and has over 2,500 separate posts of information (mostly consumer goods test results) on her blog at LeadSafeMama.com.
Tamara’s advocacy work has been mentioned in print in The New York Times; the New York Post; Mother Jones; Parents Magazine; Vice.com; MNN.com; TruthOut; WebMD; the Huffington Post,;USA Today; Grok Nation, and more (too many outlets to list!) – and in other media (T.V. and radio), on the Today Show; Kids in the House; Al Jazeera English; The Voice of Russia; CBS This Morning, and through news stories on CBS; ABC; NBC, and even Fox News – as well as in countless podcasts and other interviews.
Vintage Yellow Plastic Mega Blok
Published: Sunday – December 27, 2020
While Mega Bloks are not dated (and an exact production year is hard to pinpoint), production started in 1985 (and continues through today). Based on the condition and style of this toy (it seems nearly new!), I expect this particular block was manufactured in the window between 1990 and 2007 (probably closer to 2007, as it looks nearly new.) The New York Times wrote an article about the issue of Lead in the modern / current version of these toys in 2007 – here’s the link.
The block pictured has Lead levels higher than the Lead levels reported by the New York Times in 2007, so it is possible it is from an earlier date, but the original owner informed me that this was at her mother’s house for her nephews to play with – and that they were born in 2006 – so 2007 seems to be a fairly accurate date guess for this.
At the time the issue of Lead in yellow Mega Bloks brand blocks was first discovered and reported, the manufacturer responded by claiming that the testing methodology (super-accurate XRF analysis) used to test the blocks in 2007 was not appropriate. Since then, new legislation has been passed to help protect children — and that very same testing methodology (XRF testing, the same methodology I use to help determine total Lead content) — is now one of the primary methods used to screen toys for toxicants – a “gold standard”, used by Federal agencies (including the Consumer Product Safety Commission) to test items intended for use by children.
Mega Bloks Timeline (from Wikipedia)
“At 1984 trade shows, Ritvik showed the Mega Bloks line in the US and Canada. An immediate hit, Mega Bloks had generally large sales in Canada, including a $1 million sale to Toys R Us, and were available almost anywhere in the two markets in 1985. Several multinational companies had made offers just after the trade show for distribution rights, as well as to buy either Mega Bloks or RH itself.
By 1989, Mega Bloks were in 30 countries and popular in Europe, the US and Canada. Up to 30 play sets were available. A piano set with Mega Blok-compatible keys for the pre-school market was released in 1988. In 1989, Ritvik sold all of its other toy and plastics lines.”
The exact XRF readings of this block are as follows:
120 second reading (two minutes)
The block pictured (with test results reported here on this post) is a large yellow block bigger than my hand, the type intended for toddlers to play with. Readings reported below are science-based, replicable and accurate. Testing was done multiple times (in “Consumer Goods” mode) to confirm the results. One full set of test results is reported below.
- Lead (Pb): 5,402 +/- 128 ppm
- Mercury (Hg): 88 +/- 24 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 4,331 +/- 497 ppm
- Silver (Ag): 16 +/- 4 ppm
- Nb: 2,469 +/- 52 ppm
- Palladium (Pd): 18 +/- 3 ppm
- Gold (Au): 124 +/- 46 ppm
- Platinum (Pt): 544 +/- 65 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 424 +/- 33 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 333 +/- 40 ppm
- Indium (In): 50 +/- 7 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 596 +/- 217 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 3,520 +/- 460 ppm
How much Lead is “too much” Lead?
Anything 100 ppm Lead or higher in the substrate (the base plastic of a toy) manufactured today is considered illegal and unsafe for children to play with. To my knowledge, Mega Bloks never initiated a public recall for their “historic” (pre-2011) products contaminated with unsafe levels of heavy metals. [If they did issue any sort of public notice, I have been unable to find any trace of it online; please let me know if any of you manage to find something, and I will update this post. [And even if they did issue any type of acknowledgment/warning or recall, it was certainly not issued in a way that effectively resulted in the removal of these toxic toys from the homes of families with young children – because if that were the case, I would not still be finding these in homes across the United States thirteen years later — well into 2020!
Please only buy these products new — the risk of second-hand, contaminated vintage toys is not worth any conceivable perceived “benefit.” New toys (post-2011) like this are relatively inexpensive, and are almost always safer (in most cases they will be safer because the companies have learned their lesson with past contamination issues). Fundamentally I think I would (purely from a political perspective) choose to not purchase this brand for my children, even though their new products are Lead-free…their response to these findings back in 2007 was irresponsible and solely focused on “offensive defense” — denying/dismissing the findings, and questioning the choice of testing methodology — not on protecting the health and lives of their target market… the toddlers who play with these toys.
Thank you for reading and for sharing my posts. As always, please let me know if you have any questions. I will do my best to answer them personally – although it might not be right away as I have so many people asking me questions these days (and no childcare since the start of the pandemic!) If you want to learn more from the posts on this blog, I request you watch this short video which shows you how to use this website – link here.
Abby Pariser says
Dear Tamara, What about all the othe colors of Mega Blocks and the look-alike blocks: pastel colors and red, blue, green, orange?
Yes, I am curious about the other blocks too. I have a green and red block from this same date range that I could send you.
Could you tell me if you have tested the dollar tree legos? And if not could I send them to you and how do I go about doing that? Thanks