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Lead-Tainted Toys: Disney’s Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap

November 19, 2009

Yesterday the California Attorney General announced his demand for product recalls of seven toys and children’s products found with high levels of lead in violation of state and federal safety laws. A Disney “Tiny Tink and Friends” necklace set for young children contained 22,000 parts per million (ppm) of lead, more than 73 times higher than the federal safety standard.

The products were found by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), a nonprofit with more than ten years of work to end threats to children and families from lead and other harmful chemicals. In previous efforts, CEH’s work has eliminated lead threats from diaper creams, home water filters, imported candies and many other products. The Center is calling on major retailers Target and Walmart to stop sales of lead-tainted products.

In a statement on their cheap, lead-tainted necklace, Disney claims that tests showed their product complies with state and federal lead rules.

But Disney’s testing has a shaky history. In April 2005, an independent lab commissioned by CEH found high levels of lead in a Disney Princess bracelet set. Faux pearls on the bracelet were coated with a glossy paint that contained 166,000 ppm of lead, more than 275 times the then legal limit for lead in paint.

The nonprofit sent the test results and samples of the jewelry to Disney and to the Bush Administration’s Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). But in a June 2005 letter to CEH, Disney claimed that its own tests and CPSC tests showed the lead levels in the jewelry were “well below the legal limit.”

Despite repeated requests for their test data, neither CPSC nor Disney ever provided their results to CEH. Then, in September 2005, CPSC quietly issued a recall of the piece, citing “high levels of lead.” The Bush agency and the company refused to explain how the children’s jewelry that they left on the shelves since April, claiming it was lead-safe, suddenly developed a lead problem in September.

When it comes to cheap, lead-tainted jewelry, Disney is a repeat offender. Following the 2005 jewelry incident, in 2008 Barnes and Noble recalled three Disney charm bracelet sets after CEH found high levels of lead in the sets for small children. And cheap jewelry sets are just a few of the many cheap Disney products found with high lead levels in the past few years. Among the others include:

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