Hamsters in the Clear
Earlier this week the consumer group, GoodGuide, which ranks the safety and sustainability of toys and consumer goods, reported that Mr. Squiggles, Zhu Zhu Pets,one of the hot toys this season, was contaminated with elevated levels of antimony which can harm health.
The group gave the hot hamster a 5.2 on a 10-point scale for safety.
The toy maker is quick to point out that it’s done its own homework on this issue.
Cephia LLC, maker of the Zhu Zhu Pets, produced its own toxicology report on the best seller.
That report has now been examined by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and given a clean bill of health.
The "toy is not out of compliance” with toy safety laws the CPSC told the Associated Press. The agency did not test the toy.
As IB News pointed out earlier this week, GoodGuide used a hand held x-ray florescence analyzer which finds the levels of elements on a toy’s surface. When the trigger of the battery-operated device is pulled, the X-ray tube measures what elements are present on the surface. This is considered a less accurate means of measuring the level of toy contaminants.
The preferable method is a soluble standard of measurement which tests for heavy metals in toys by dissolving the paint in an acid, then filtering and analyzing the contents.
GoodGuide is a project of a University of California Berkeley environmental science professor, Dr. Dara O’Rourke, who had to issue an apology over its error.
''While we accurately reported the chemical levels in the toys that we measured using our testing method, we should not have compared our results to federal standards,'' GoodGuide said in a statement. ''We regret this error.''
Critics are now pouring into its Web site calling it a “sham” and less than credible, while some support the group for testing the surface of toys. But one parent asks what goes the different testing methods mean?
The CPSC says in an August report that the X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry has the potential to accurately measure lead content in painted films on children’s products, but other methods should be used before a complete evaluation is possible, such as the solvent method.
GoodGuide now has issued a statement on page one of its Web site that is will use new protocols to “enhance product testing.” That involves using a certified lab for independent verification. Test methods will match U.S. or European government standards when comparing results to regulated standards.
“It was inappropriate to compare our results to federal standards because we used a different testing methodology. Our new protocols are designed to ensure that this does not happen again,” said O’Rourke.
What Consumers Can Do
The CPSC raised the standards on allowable toxic metals in holiday toys after a rash of problems two years ago.
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 required manufacturers to following tougher standards, banning lead and phthalates and implementing a searchable database of unsafe toys, though the new standards are being phased in over the years.
While that database is still under construction, the CPSC provides consumers with a toy recall Web site.
Also check Consumer Reports, Safe Kids USA, U.S. PIRG,and the Ecology Center’s HealthyStuff.org - "2009 Guide to Toxic Chemicals in Toys” to find safe toys this holiday season.
Consumers can also purchase lead testing kits to find lead levels on cheap metal jewelry, painted surfaces and toys. Two years ago, Consumer Reports reviewed the kits for accuracy, finding three out of five were useful.
The Ecology Center in Ann Arbor Michigan finds one in three children’s toys still contain heavy metals. #