Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Toxic toys? Health group finds high lead levels

updated 6:34 p.m. ET, Tues., Nov . 17, 2009

WASHINGTON - 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.

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