May 9, 2021 – Sunday
Introduction: Tamara Rubin is an independent advocate for consumer goods safety and she is also a mother of Lead-poisoned children. She began testing consumer goods for toxicants in 2009 and was the parent-advocate responsible for finding Lead in the popular fidget spinner toys in 2017. She uses XRF testing (a scientific method used by the Consumer Product Safety Commission) to test consumer goods for contaminants including Lead, Cadmium, Mercury and Arsenic.
90 PPM Lead (or higher) is unsafe for kids
The amount of Lead that is considered unsafe for items intended for use by children and made today is anything 90 ppm Lead or higher in the paint, glaze or coating, and anything 100 ppm Lead or higher in the substrate. I would not consider this educational tool safe for use by children. Most important to know for context: this item would be illegal if manufactured today.
“But I played with a set like this when I was a kid and I am ok!”
The sentiment expressed in the above quote (or some version of it) is a common refrain, and in response I wrote an entire post for you to share with parents or grandparents (or spouses or friends) whose lack of concern is based on that notion. Here’s a link to that post here. The fundamental guiding principle that we can all use in a situation like this is “Know Better, Do Better” – why would you knowingly give your child a toxic toy to play with? [Especially a younger child who might put that toy in their mouth!]
“Will my child get poisoned by using this particular educational toy?”
Strangely, this is a complete unknown — there is no manufacturer that has a financial interest in underwriting research to quantify the potential risk of their historic / vintage / legacy products (even though these are products that were often “made to last a lifetime”, and are being handed down through the generations).
There have been several independent studies that demonstrate a basis for real potential concern for toxicants found in vintage toys in general (without identifying specific toys and specific manufacturers of concern). Here’s a link with more information.
In my educated opinion – it is simply not worth the possible risk to allow any kid to play with vintage toys (or vintage educational tools) incorporating such potentially high levels of multiple neurotoxic metals. There are plenty of modern safer choices available today – and they are normally quite inexpensive. Here’s an affiliate link* to educational toys / tools that are made by a reputable brand and therefore likely negative for Lead, Cadmium, Mercury and Arsenic (I have not tested products from this brand, but newly manufactured items made for use by children are strictly regulated): https://amzn.to/3uArOyb
The specific toxicant profile for the spinners pictured above
Below are the exact XRF test results for the math spinners pictured. Please read this post with more information about the testing methodologies used on this blog. Note: you cannot do this testing yourself at home (the appropriate XRF instruments are both incredibly expensive and require training and experience to use correctly), which is why I do the testing and report it (free of charge) here on my blog so parents have access to this information. If you are interested in having me test an item and report the results on the blog – please read this post (link.) If you have some of the Lead-contaminated items shown on this blog, please read this post discussing what you can do with them.
Note: When I first tested this item I suspected the spinner’s arrow was made of Leaded brass, however more detailed testing revealed that the cardboard backing was printed with inks containing heavy metals (not uncommon for something from 1972!) Because the Lead is in the INK and the product is made of paper (which is more likely to deteriorate and wear than – for example – hard plastic unpainted toys) – I would consider this particular item to be a potentially higher risk item.
#1.) 60-second test – focus on yellow part of laminated cardboard
- Lead (Pb): 16,200 +/- 300 ppm
- Mercury (Hg): 77 +/- 26 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 14,100 +/- 600 ppm
- Silver (Ag): 30 +/- 6 ppm
- Nb: 1,670 +/- 45 ppm
- Bromine (Br): 18 +/- 5 ppm
- Palladium (Pd): 20 +/- 5 ppm
- Platinum (Pt): 326 +/- 80 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 549 +/- 42 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 158 +/- 37 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 1,575 +/- 162 ppm
- Indium (In): 72 +/- 11 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 17,500 +- 900 ppm
#2.) Focus on green part of laminated cardboard
- Lead (Pb): 5,287 +/- 142 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 4,434 +/- 552 ppm
- Silver (Ag): 33 +/- 7 ppm
- Nb: 1,770 +/- 52 ppm
- Palladium (Pd): 19 +/- 5 ppm
- Platinum (Pt): 276 +/- 74 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 1,180 +/- 74 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 269 +/- 49 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 1,748 +/- 199 ppm
- Indium (In): 77 +/- 13 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 33,600 +- 2,200 ppm
#3.) 60-second test – focus on center of brass dial
Reading is possibly capturing some of the yellow background
- Lead (Pb): 4,315 +/- 340 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 444 +/- 168 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 292,200 +/- 1,900 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 699,900 +/- 2,500 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 433 +/- 167 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 949 +- 338 ppm
As always, thank you for reading and for sharing my posts. Please let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer them personally as soon as I have a moment! [Sometimes this can take a while with so many readers on this blog and all of the related questions!] The best thing you can do to support this work is to share posts that pique your interest on your social media pages!