Group finds lead in Barbie, Disney toys; focus is still on China

A California environmental health advocacy group commissioned testing on some 250 toys and found high lead levels in seven of them, including Barbie and Disney-branded products.

While the percentage that failed was low, the findings released by the Center for Environmental Health were disturbing nonetheless for just how high the levels were -- in some toys they were dozens of times above the legal limit.
The Barbie and Disney toys that flunked had the highest lead levels of those tested. In conjunction with the findings, California Attorney General Jerry Brown followed the group's announcement with a letter putting retailers on notice that his office would be enforcing lead standards. Some of the toys were found at stores that carry leftover merchandise, while others were found at major retailers.

Here are the toys that were found to have lead, where they were purchased and how much was found (the limit is 300 parts per million):

Disney Fairies Silvermist's Water Lily Necklace sold by Walgreens, 22,000 ppm
Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit sold by Tuesday Morning, 6,196 ppm
Reversible Croco Belt sold by Target, 4,270 ppm
Paula Fuschia Open-Toed Shoes sold by Sears, 3,957 ppm
Dora the Explorer Activity Tote sold by TJ Maxx, 2,348 ppm
MSY Faded Glory Rebecca Shoes sold by Walmart, 1,331 ppm
Kids Poncho sold by Walmart, 677 ppm

Brown's office has been aggressive in its pursuit of stores that stock toys in violation of lead standards. His office used a settlement with toy companies over lead levels to give out $548,000 in grants for consumer groups to help police store shelves. The testing that was done by the Center for Environmental Health was funded by one of those grants.

Just before the report was released, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Inez Tenenbaum appeared at a town hall-style forum in New York with Toys R Us CEO Jerry Storch and Safe Kids USA Executive Director Alan Korn to talk about gains made in toy safety.

As usual, the conversation came around to China, where more than 80 percent of toys on U.S. store shelves are made.

Tenebaum said toy recalls have plummeted over the past year. She credited a more vigilant Chinese government, aggressive customs inspections that keep questionable toys from entering the U.S. and a requirement that all toys be independently-tested to ensure they comply with the tough rules set in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. The tough new lead paint standards set in the law have resulted in a marked decline in the number of toys being found with high lead levels this year, she said.

"We're very firm with our enforcement," Tenebaum told those gathered at the Times Square Toys R Us store. "We don't have any push back on that at this point."

(See WalletPop's video from the event.)



In 2008, the CPSC recorded 19 toy-related deaths and nearly 173,000 emergency room visits to kids under 15. Nearly half the injuries were those younger than 5. The CPSC urges parents and caregivers to help reduce the number of toy-related injuries and deaths by ensuring children use toys appropriate for their age and following safety guidelines.

The CPSC offered the following safety tips:

Use proper fitting helmets and safety gear at all times when using scooters and other ride-on toys.
  • Keep small balls and toys with small parts away from children under 3.
  • Discard broken balloons and keep uninflated balloons from those under 8.
  • Avoid toys with magnets for children under 6.
  • Immediately throw out the plastic packaging and wrapping from toys.

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