September 28, 2007

Backpack! Backtrack! This Week In Poisonous Toy News

So many stories about toxic toys, so little time. Even the NY Times wraps up ten different recall and lead incidents into one story these days.


  • To celebrate the World Vinyl Forum, which was in town this week, a consumer advocacy group, the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, conducted spot tests for lead on 50+ plastic and PVC vinyl toys purchased at random in the Boston area. "Of the more than fifty products sampled, eleven contained lead and three contained extremely high lead levels including a Nick, Jr. 'Go Diego, Go' backpack, a 'Superfly' monkey, and a pair of Circo 'Lulu' boots."

    With almost 8x the government limits for lead content, the Diego backpack is the headlinegrabber. The photo of the activist pretending to test the backpack with the portable XRF gun is from CHEJ's flickr stream. [BTW, what's up with the b&w signage at the protest march? Is color printing toxic?]

    I'm glad CHEJ is on the PVC case, but frankly, I like my parent-terrifying news stunts thrown together with even slightly more concrete data. Or at least a link where I can get my own XRF gun. Just in time for the holidays! [ via nyt]

  • There's a new batch of lead-related toy recalls totaling 550,000 units this time--funny what turns up when you actually start looking, isn't it, Toy Industry Association?--and the winner here: Thomas the Tank Engine. RC2 is recalling an additional 200,000 units of five toys, including some toys sold after their summer recall AND some--but not all--of the Toad cars they gave out as bonus vehicles for the first recall. [Yes, you read that right. Bold AND italics.]

    The other recalled toys this week are gardening toys from Target. The complete-as-of-today list is at the CPSC's website.

    New Testing Finds Lead in Children’s PVC Toys Sold in Massachusetts [chej's]
    550,000 More Chinese Toys Recalled Because of Lead [nyt]
    RC2 Continued To Sell Lead Tainted "Thomas & Friends" Toys After Initial Recall [consumerist]
    Toy Hazard Recalls list []


    Oh, hey -- someone gave us those rubber ducks (the big creepy duckling with the little ducklings in holes on its back) that came up positive. Dammit. I'm about ready to institute a "no toys" policy at our house.

    My wife has just pointed out that her mother bought us that creepy doll slumping in the corner of the picture. I knew I never liked that doll. I was thinking that it was more the type that would attack with a knife in the middle of the night, or string a jumping rope across of the top of the stairs for a quick little accident. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it was so evil as to poison our child over time.

    Strike that. Came from the grandmother which means it must have come from the dollar store or walmart. It's made by Uneeda aparently.

    Okay, so, I just tested the rubber ducks pictured in the "contaminated" section (well, one of the small ones -- the big one creeped me out and I threw it away a long time ago), with the test kit we got from

    My test came back clean, which could mean that the tests I have are crap, or that the reported results are suspect, or that not all versions of the creepy ducks are created equal.

    My uneducated guess is that there's some small amount of lead in the vinyl but not in a "loose" form detected by the surface test. (I scratched the thing pretty hard before testing to simulate being bitten, but I didn't dissolve it in acid or anything.) The X-ray thingamabob wouldn't necessarily make that distinction.

    Of course, having made that guess, I'm not exactly sure what to do about it.

    [You know, I would worry about the three toys reported to have "extremely high" levels of lead, but the other eight, I think the CHEJ folks need to come clean with their lead readings before I'd decide to do anything. The fact that they don't say what the lead levels are makes me suspect they're well under the CPSC ppm standard. There's a sloppiness to this CHEJ thing that makes it interesting as big-picture theater, but the details don't inspire a lot of personal, toy-purging urgency. Except for that Diego backpack; that thing sounds so toxic, you'd be dead before you hit the floor. -ed.]

    I'm glad you pointed out the sloppy reportage in the last ed comment, Greg. I was just spending this beautiful Saturday poring through the research and the Sassy water toys which were found to have high lead levels - actually the lead was only found in the bag they came in, not in the toys themselves. Still not ideal...but makes me wonder why that was one of the offenders that was highlighted by them.

    Also, are lead poisoning stats in children actually up? Or just headlines about recalls? Hm.

    I noticed that the local toy store now has a big display of all sorts of toys that aren't of the multi-national variety, all topped off with a big "made in Quebec' sign.

    [lol, as if anyone would think Quebec is a separate country... -ed.]

    Thank you for doing the hard work so that all I have to do is link to your blog from my own.


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