More than 15,000 people bought jewelry and school supplies from Amazon containing hazardous amounts of lead and cadmium in 2017 and 2018, according to the Washington Attorney General’s Office, leading many to wonder how they could know whether products in their home are safe.

Under an agreement announced Thursday by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Amazon must require third-party sellers of these products to provide certificates proving their safety and compliance with U.S. and Washington consumer-protection statutes.

We spoke to representatives from the Washington Department of Ecology and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn how best to ensure you’re not exposing your child to harmful products.

What products are most at risk for toxic levels of lead and cadmium?

Imported toys and school supplies, and antique toys and jewelry from before 1978, when lead was banned in children’s products.

How can a consumer know if a product is safe?

The Department of Ecology suggests that parents be mindful of a product’s country of origin (more than 80% of toys are manufactured in China, where lead regulations are not as strict), and to contact the manufacturer of a product directly demanding transparency and safety assurances.

Is there a way to test toys and supplies?

Parents can buy a do-it-yourself lead test kit that costs about $25. But they don’t say how much lead is actually present and can be unreliable.

Laboratory tests are more accurate but can cost about $50 per item. Consumers should ask the lab to test for total lead and cadmium content, using certified testing methods.

Another solution: If in doubt, just throw it out.

How much lead and cadmium is toxic?

The federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act prohibits levels of lead exceeding 100 parts per million in any accessible part of a children’s product. Under state law, cadmium levels cannot exceed 40 ppm.

Where can I learn more?

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