Mercury is a metallic element. Its compounds are often used in inks,
adhesives, and as a catalyst in reactions to form polyurethanes (ATSDR
espanõl). HealthyStuff.org 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.
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
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.