Toys and children's jewelry may contain metals to which children can be orally exposed. The objectives of this research were (1) to determine total concentrations (TC's) of As, Ba, Cd, Cr, Cu, Mn, Ni, Pb, Sb, and Se in toys and jewelry (n = 72) bought on the North American market and compare TC's to regulatory limits, and (2) to estimate oral metal bioavailability in selected items (n = 4) via bioaccessibility testing. For metallic toys and children's jewelry (n = 24) 20 items had TC's exceeding migratable concentration limits (European Union). Seven of seventeen jewelry items did not comply with TC limits in U.S. and Canadian regulations. Samples included articles with very high Cd (37% [w/w]), Pb (65%), and Cu (71%) concentrations. For plastic toys (n = 18), toys with paint or coating (n = 12), and brittle or pliable toys (n = 18), TC's were below the EU migration limits (except in one toy for each category). Bioaccessibility tests showed that a tested jewelry item strongly leached Pb (gastric: 698 µg, intestinal: 705 µg) and some Cd (1.38 and 1.42 µg). Especially in metallic toys and jewelry, contamination by Pb and Cd, and to a lesser extent by Cu, Ni, As, and Sb, still poses an acute problem in North America.
High metal contamination in toys and low-cost jewelry is a widespread problem, and metals can become bioavailable, especially via oral pathway due to common child-specific behaviors of mouthing and pica. In this review, the U.S., Canadian, and European Union (EU) legislations on metals in toys and jewelry are evaluated. A literature review on content, bioavailability, children's exposure, and testing of metals in toys and low-cost jewelry is provided. A list of priority metals is presented, and research needs and legislative recommendations are addressed. While the U.S. and Canadian legislations put emphasis on lead exposure prevention, other toxic elements like arsenic and cadmium in toy materials are not regulated except in paint and coatings. The EU legislation is more comprehensive in terms of contaminants and scientific approach. Current toy testing procedures do not fully consider metal bioavailability. In vitro bioaccessibility tests developed and validated for toys and corresponding metal bioaccessibility data in different toy matrices are lacking. The U.S. and Canadian legislations should put more emphasis on metal bioavailability and on other metals in addition to lead. A two-step management approach with mandatory testing of toys for total metal concentrations followed by voluntary bioaccessibility testing could be implemented.