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Lead Found in Barbie, Disney Toys

Nov 18, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP We have long been writing that exposure to lead in children can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and behavioral and other health problems. Now, the Associated Press (AP) is reporting that some toys bearing Barbie and Disney logos have tested with high lead levels, citing the Center for Environmental Health, an advocacy group located in California.

The Center tested some 250 children’s products that were purchased at popular retailers, said AP. Lead levels were found to exceed federal limits in seven of the toys tested, including a Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit and a Disney Tinkerbell Water Lily necklace. The Center also found “excessive lead” levels in a “Dora the Explorer Activity Tote, two pairs of children's shoes, a boys’ belt, and a kids' poncho,” said the AP. In response, California’s Attorney General, Jerry Brown, wrote to the retailers of the seven products, which include Target and Wal-Mart, issuing a warning that children’s products sold in their stores contained lead levels in violation of federal standards and should be immediately removed, reported the AP.

Lead is also known to cause cancer and reproductive harm. Once poisoned by lead, no organ system is immune. Of particular concern is the developing brain because negative influences can have long-lasting effects and can continue well into puberty and beyond. Lead is considered by many experts to be one of the most important chronic environmental illnesses affecting children today. Unfortunately, despite efforts to control lead exposure, serious cases still occur.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about half of all urban children world-wide and under the age of five test with blood lead levels higher than the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) safe limit. In the United States, the CDC dropped its “level of concern for blood” lead levels to 10 micrograms per deciliter, according to the BBC previously.

The Center for Environmental Health stated that the Barbie toy was purchased at Tuesday Morning and the Tinkerbell jewelry from Walgreens; other products with high lead levels were purchased form TJ Maxx, Sears, Wal-Mart, and Target, said the AP. Meanwhile, Mattel said it did not manufacture or sell the bike accessory kit and that, in that case, the Barbie name was licensed to Bell Sport. According to Bell Sport, the kit passed safety tests two years prior when lead level requirements were not as stringent; Bell claimed it was unaware the product was still being sold, said the AP. According to Disney, the Tinkerbell necklace was tested by Playmates Toys—its licensee—prior to distribution and was allegedly in compliance with all required regulations reported the AP.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is apparently looking into the situation, said the AP.

With the implementation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), it is illegal to sell children’s products containing lead in specific amounts. The CPSC explained by February 10, 2009, products designed or intended primarily for children 12 and younger may not contain more than 600 ppm of lead; sale of those products can result in significant civil and criminal liability. After August 14, 2009, the level decreases to 300 ppm and, again decreases to 100 ppm on August 14, 2011.

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