Mercury is a metallic element. Its compounds are often used in inks, adhesives, and as a catalyst in reactions to form polyurethanes (ATSDR 1999, en espanõl). has detected low concentrations of mercury in a wide range of consumer products. Mercury can exist in different forms and some forms are more toxic than others. Methylmercury is a form of mercury that is particularly hazardous to the developing brain. The main pathway of exposure to methylmercury is from eating contaminated fish and it is unlikely that this form would be present in children's toys. However, the use of mercury in children's products means potential exposure of workers to this compound and release to the environment when the product is discarded.

Health Effects:

  • Mercury is a persistent toxic chemical that can build up in the body.
  • All forms of mercury can affect the kidneys (ATSDR 1999).
  • Organic, inorganic, and metallic mercury are toxic to the nervous system, each affecting different regions of the brain (ATSDR 1999).
  • Young children are more sensitive to mercury and may be exposed to mercury via the mother’s body to the fetus or through breast milk (ATSDR 1999).

Current Regulations for Products

  • The toy industry has established a voluntary migration standard (ASTM F973-07) for the amount of mercury that can migrate from toys of 60 ppm. The European toy industry has established a migration standard (EN 71) of 60 ppm for mercury.
  • On February 10, 2009 the CPSIA adopted the ASTM F973-07 limits for mercury and other metals (view ASTM standard) as a mandatory standard.
  • Nineteen states limit mercury in packaging materials (TPCH 2007).
  • Michigan passed a bill that requires state agencies to avoid purchasing mercury-containing products.
  • California restricts the amount of mercury that can be in the paints and coatings of certain consumer products.
  • The European Union just strengthened regulations on chemicals of concern in children's products. For more information, see Directive 2009/48/EC.

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