If ever we needed a real Santa Claus making wooden toys in his frigid workshop, it’s now. The Ecology Center last week reported that a third of the most popular children's toys in the United States this year contain harmful chemicals including lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury. I’d like to think we could save our kids by bringing on the old fashioned toys, but are we really capable of going cold turkey on plastic?

Top toys contain toxins.

The full report on toxic toys is available on the website HealthyStuff.org. The Ecology Center based its findings on tests of nearly 700 toys. They found that 32 percent contained one or more toxic chemical.

Lead is still a big problem. Although there has been progress — a drop of 67 percent in the number of products exceeding federal limits since 2007 — lead was found in 18 percent of the toys tested. Lead affects the nervous system. According to the Ecology Center, toys with detectable lead levels included the Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit, Dora the Explorer Activity Tote and the Kid's Poncho sold by Wal-Mart stores.

The study used a portable x-ray fluorescence analyzer to find cadmium and arsenic at levels considered toxic. The authors found that 42 percent of the toys tested contained PVC.

PVC is the worst plastic from an environmental health perspective because it creates major hazards in its manufacture, product life and disposal, and can contain additives that are dangerous to human health.

The Ecology Center, which has tested some 4,000 children's products over the past three years, has created an online database where consumers can check whether the toys they have purchased contain toxic chemicals.

Wood toys are safer, but can we go back?

Is it too late to return to a simpler time of wooden toys? Are our kids too used to the slick brightness of processed plastic? Or are we as parents too spoiled by the low prices on similar toys in plastic versus wood? I am the last person to encourage any strict stances that foster parental guilt. There is enough of that going around without having to worry about buying the right toy.

I guess I’m counting on those parents who are passionate about this issue to take stands for the rest of us, and to let us know what we all can do to keep kids healthy and safe — and relatively occupied by a few good toys.

What’s your opinion on plastic toys? (If you have one.)