With the holiday season peeking around the corner, many eco-minded parents (myself included) are wondering just how much they can trust the stores on toy shelves this year to be safe from toxins. Some are taking matters in to their own hands to find out.

Last Saturday green parents in Eugene, Ore., headed out to a Toxic Toy Testing event held at the Science Factory. The event was a collaboration between the Science Factory and Oregon Toxics Alliance. At the event, the parents were able to get on-site toy testing using a hi-tech, hand-held device called a Niton Analyzer on loan from ThermoFisher Scientific.  

In addition to toys, event organizers were on hand to test jewelry, and household items such as dishes for unsafe levels of lead and other hazardous chemicals, such as phthalates, arsenic, mercury, beryllium and cadmium.

Only a handful of people trickled in over the course of the six-hour event, but the people who did come left with peace of mind ... and more than a few surprises. Dena Drake of Eugene to stop by the Science Factory with a bag of four items. The $2 plastic, popping push-toy, a red plastic toy phone receiver and the family’s television remote control. All of those items were OK according to toy testers. But a hand-me-down V-Tech Learn and Discover Driver toy, with several buttons and levers and spinning wheels, registered a lead level of more than 600 parts per million — twice the newly allowable level for children’s toys.

This was the second year the two groups have come together to sponsor a Toxic Toy Testing event, and staff said they are likely to do it again. In the meantime, if you missed last Saturday's event, the alliance is taking appointments through next weekend for people who want to bring in toys or other household items for testing. Give them a call at 541-465-8860 to schedule an appointment.