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County Legislators Move To Ban Toxic Toys, Children's Clothing, Jewelry

Bobbi Chase Wilding, left, deputy director of Clean & Healthy New York describes a toxic reading as Legislator Catherine Parker of Rye looks on. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Some of the children's toys and jewelry found to contain high levels of antimony, cadmium, cobalt, lead or mercury. Photo Credit: Jon Craig

This story has been updated.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Antimony, cadmium, cobalt, lead and mercury. These were some of the toxins found recently during a test on children's toys, jewelry and clothing, prompting county legislators to propose a ban to be enforced by the Westchester County Health Department.

At a Wednesday news conference, a dozen popular products typically manufactured overseas were displayed by legislators. They included a Hot Wheels gift set, Lego Legends of Chima keychain, Fisher Price Thomas & Friends train and Superman penlight. Jackets from The Children's Place were found to have zipper pulls containing cadmium.

"As we enter into this holiday season, it is important to keep in mind the safety of the toys we give our children,'' said Legislator Catherine Borgia, D-Ossining, the bill's sponsor. "It is time for a legislative solution."

Legislator Catherine Parker, D-Rye, promised to act swiftly and expeditiously as chair of the Environment and Energy Committee.

The state Senate failed to pass legislation to ban toxins in toys, but the Albany County Legislature recently enacted a ban. Westchester legislators said the state's failure to enact a law necessitates action by county government.

The chemicals detected have been linked to cancer, cognitive impairments, liver damage, hyperactivity and genetic disorders in children, according to Bobbi Chase Wilding, deputy director for Clean & Healthy New York.

Legislator Peter Harckham, D-Katonah, said the county Health Department already possesses the costly equipment needed to test for contaminants. As a parent, Harckham suggested that residents email every county legislator to express their support for a ban.

"As a mother, looking at these products is very disquieting,'' said Legislator MaryJane Shimsky, D-Hastings-on-Hudson.

The study was conducted during the past month by Clean & Healthy New York and the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund using an x-ray flourescence analyzer. They tested products sold at Target, Party City, Walmart, The Children's Place, Macy's, Spencer's and Lord & Taylor.

On Friday, Party City issued this statement: “Party City is dedicated to ensuring that all of its supplier’s products meet or exceed federal, state and municipal requirements. To this end, Party City requires testing and compliance of its suppliers’ products by using nationally recognized product testing organizations. Any product that fails to meet governmental or Party City's standards will not be distributed. For the items allegedly with high levels of certain chemicals, we shall inform the suppliers, investigate the allegations, and take necessary actions.”

Christopher Goeken, director of public policy and government relations for the League of Conservation Voters, said the federal system for screening for toxic toys is outdated and not working.

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