Toxic Barbie?

Posted on Dec 19, 2009 in Uncategorized

ASHINGTON (AP) – Children’s toys carrying the Barbie and Disney logos have turned up with high levels of lead in them, according to a California-based advocacy group – a finding that may give consumers pause as they shop for the holiday season.

The Center for Environmental Health tested about 250 children’s products bought at major retailers and found lead levels that exceeded federal limits in seven of them. Lead can cause irreversible brain damage.

Among those with high lead levels: a Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit and a Disney Tinkerbell Water Lily necklace. The group said it also found excessive lead in a Dora the Explorer Activity Tote, two pairs of children’s shoes, a boys belt and a kids’ poncho.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown has sent letters to Target, Wal-Mart and the other retailers who sold the seven products, warning that children’s goods on their store shelves were found to contain illegal levels of lead and should be pulled immediately.

The findings released Tuesday come about a year after a product safety law that ushered in strict limits on the amounts of lead and chemicals allowed in products made for children 12 years and younger. Congress passed the law after a slew of recalls of lead-tainted toys in 2007, including several Mattel-related recalls that involved more than 2 million toys.

Mattel said it licensed the Barbie name to Bell Sports for the bike accessory kit found with high lead, but did not make or sell it. Bell said the kit was an older product that passed safety tests in 2007, but the company didn’t know it was still on store shelves.

Disney said the Tinkerbell necklace was tested by its licensee, Playmates Toys, before being distributed – and that it complied with all federal and state consumer safety regulations.

The Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, Calif., said the Barbie toy was bought at Tuesday Morning and the Tinkerbell jewelry was purchased at Walgreens. The other products the center said had high lead came from TJ Maxx, Sears, Wal-Mart and Target.

The center’s executive director, Michael Green, said parents “need to know that there are still some lead problems on store shelves.”

The center did an initial round of testing on products and sent the ones singled out as having high lead to an independent laboratory for additional testing and confirmation.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates toys and thousands of other products, is looking into the matter.

Commission Chairman Inez Tenenbaum held a meeting with parents and consumers Tuesday in New York to praise the new safety protections provided in the consumer law, known as CPSIA. She said lead recalls are down this year and that CPSIA should give consumers greater confidence while shopping for toys during the holiday season.

Here are some safety steps consumers can take while shopping this holiday season:

* Scooters and other riding toys – Riding toys, skateboards and in-line skates go fast and falls could be deadly. Helmets and safety gear should be worn at all times and be sized to fit.

* Small balls and other toys with small parts – For children younger than 3, avoid toys with small parts, which can cause choking.

* Balloons – Children can choke or suffocate on un-inflated or broken balloons. Keep un-inflated balloons away from children younger than 8 years old. Discard broken balloons at once.

* Magnets – For children under age 6, avoid building or play sets with small magnets. If magnets or pieces with magnets are swallowed, serious injuries and/or death can occur.

Once the gifts are open:

* Immediately discard plastic wrappings or other packaging on toys before they become dangerous play things.

* Keep toys appropriate for older children away from younger siblings.

* Charging batteries should be supervised by adults. Chargers and adapters can pose thermal burn hazards to young children. Pay attention to instructions and warnings on battery chargers. Some chargers lack any device to prevent overcharging.