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Parents cope with season of suspect toys

With 80 percent of children's toys manufactured in China, recent recalls have parents looking for safer alternatives.

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Alice Hollowed never figured she'd need to worry about toxic toys. A fan of simpler play things for her children, she doesn't even allow battery-operated toys in her house.

So it came as something of a shock to her this year when her son's wooden "Thomas" train toys were recalled.

"It horrified me," says Ms. Hollowed, a Chicago mother of three. "You buy these nice wooden toys, $20 apiece, you don't expect it to be full of lead. I'm not even buying the plastic toys and we still got caught by the recall."

With more than 25 million toys recalled this year, for reasons ranging from testing positive for lead paint to containing dangerous magnets, many parents are angry, and wondering what they need to do to ensure toys are safe. Some are implementing their own boycotts on all Chinese-made toys – not an easy proposition since 80 percent of toys sold in the US are made there – or looking for more reputable manufacturers. Parents are buying home lead tests and combing recall lists. A few are encouraging their children to play with traditional items such as wooden blocks, puzzles, and books – or to embrace the entertainment power of cardboard boxes – in the hopes that such items might be safer.

Some estimates show that 16 percent of parents say they have not purchased toys because of the recalls according to America's Research Group, and 22 percent say they're less likely to buy toys as holiday gifts. Another poll showed 33 percent of Americans say they will be buying fewer toys this holiday seasons due to recent safety recalls and 45 percent indicate they will avoid buying toys manufactured in China. This number jumps to nearly 7 in 10 among those who claim they have been directly affected by the recall, according to a Harris Interactive Poll.

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