Journal of environmental health

Hazardous metals in vintage plastic toys measured by a handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometer.

PMID 25619030


Over 100 plastic toys from the 1970s and 1980s, both polyvinyl chloride ("vinyl") and nonvinyl, were analyzed in the study described here using a handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometer to quantify hazardous metal content. A sampling of recent vinyl toys was also tested. The majority of nonvinyl samples were Fisher Price brand toys. The vinyl toys consisted largely of Barbie dolls and other dolls. Overall, lead or cadmium was found in 67% of vintage plastic toys, frequently at concentrations exceeding current U.S. and European limits. Arsenic was detected at levels of concern in 16% of the samples. In the nonvinyl toys, heavy metal content was found to correlate with certain colors of plastic. The likely sources of the detected metals are discussed. None of the contemporary vinyl toys contained detectable cadmium, lead, or arsenic. Given that vintage toys remain in widespread use by children in homes and other locations, the results illuminate a potential source of heavy metal exposure for children.