WASHINGTON -- One in three toys contains "medium" to "high" levels of harmful chemicals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic and PVC, a study released Wednesday by The Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and published at HealthyToys.org, has revealed.

Lead was detected in 20 percent of the toys tested, some of which contained quantities that exceeded the federal recall standard used for lead paint.

What's more, those levels also exceed the new U.S. legal limit, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's new regulations, which will take effect in February.

Concerned parents can visit HealthyToys.org to search toys by name, brand or type, and check if those items contain toxic chemicals.

Children's jewelry remained the most contaminated product category, maintaining its position at the top of the Web site's "worst" list.

The new CPSC regulations would make some products currently being sold illegal to sell two months from now. Experts insist the new regulations, while a good first step, do not go far enough to protect our children.

"There is simply no place for toxic chemicals in children's toys," said Ecology Center's Jeff Gearhart, who led the research.

"Our hope is that by empowering consumers with this information, manufacturers and lawmakers will feel the pressure to start phasing out the most harmful substances immediately, and to change the nation's laws to protect children from highly toxic chemicals."

Researchers tested for chemicals that have been associated with reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone problems and cancer; and for those that have been identified by regulatory agencies as problematic.

Babies and young children are the most vulnerable populations because their brains and bodies are still developing, and because they frequently put toys into their mouths.

The testing was conducted with a screening technology -- the portable X-Ray Fluorescence analyzer -- that identifies the elemental composition of materials on or near the surface of products.

Sixty-two percent of the products tested contained low levels of chemicals of concern, and 21percent of all products contain none.

Highlights from the HealthyToys.org 2008 findings:

Lead was found in 20 percent of all the products tested this year, including 54 products (3.5 percent) that exceed the current 600 parts-per-million recall threshold for lead-based paint, and the soon-to-be national standard for all children's products.

No consistent correlation was found between country of manufacture and the presence of toxic chemicals.

Twenty-one percent of toys from China and 16 percent of those from all other countries had detectable levels of lead in 2008.

Of the 17 toys manufactured in the United States that were sampled, 35 contained detectable levels of lead.

A significant number of toys were found to contain cadmium, mercury, arsenic and bromine.

Twenty-seven percent of toys tested (excluding jewelry) were made with PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), which creates environmental health hazards in its manufacture and disposal and may contain additives, including phthalates, that may pose hazards.

Jewelry remains the most contaminated product category tested. Children's jewelry is five times more likely to contain lead above 600 ppm than other products.

Numerous Hannah Montana brand jewelry items tested high for lead. HealthyToys.org recommends that consumers avoid low-cost children's jewelry.

Concerned parents can visit HealthyToys.org to search toys by name, brand or type, and check if those items contain toxic chemicals.

Another study, released this week by Consumers Union, found product recalls were up 19 percent in fiscal year 2008, and 121 recalls of more than 12.2 million children's products were due to high levels of lead.

That study also found that imports continue to be problematic, accounting for nearly 97 percent of the recalled products in 2008. Eighty-one percent of those were made in China.

Three dollar-store chains -- Dollar General, Dollar Tree Stores and Family Dollar -- collectively generated 12 recalls of nearly 3 million products, according to Consumers Union, which also advises consumers purchasing used products to check the Web site recalls.gov before buying at consignment shops or such Web sites as eBay and Craigslist.