From Our 2009 Archives
U.S. Agency: Zhu Zhu Toys Meet Safety Standard
Consumer Product Safety Commission Responds to Claims of Antimony Contamination
By Daniel J. DeNoon
Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
Dec. 8, 2009 -- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission disputes allegations that Zhu Zhu Pets, one of the hottest-selling toys this holiday season, are contaminated with unsafe levels of antimony.
GoodGuide, a new consumer group, said on Monday that its tests showed that the furry toys carried unsafe concentrations of antimony, a heavy metal.
That's just not so, says Cepia LLC, the company that makes Mr. Squiggles and other Zhu Zhu Pets. To prove it, Cepia released premarketing test results from a highly respected independent lab. Contrary to the GoodGuide tests, the report from Bureau Veritas labs shows that none of the Zhu Zhu Pets caries unsafe levels of antimony or any other contaminant.
A review of those tests by the CPSC shows they were conducted properly -- unlike the GoodGuide test, which used a scanning technology that does not yield definitive safety results for antimony.
"After meeting with the company and reviewing independent test results that used the right testing procedures, we have concluded this toy does not violate a new federal toy safety standard that covers antimony and other heavy metals," CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson tells WebMD.
Because of the GoodGuide complaint, the CPSC says it will conduct its own tests of the toy. Wolfson says the CPSC takes the GoodGuide allegation seriously, but the investigation does not mean the toy should be considered unsafe.
"CPSC is looking into the Zhu Zhu pet toy and we will complete our review swiftly," the CPSC says in an official statement.
No recall is planned, Wolfson says.
Meanwhile, Cepia is vigorously defending the safety of Zhu Zhu Pets.
"Mr. Squiggles is absolutely safe and has passed the most rigorous testing in the toy industry to consumer health and safety," Cepia says in a news release.
GoodGuide, started in September 2008, is a consumer group led by Dara J. O'Rourke, PhD, assistant professor of environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley. The group issues ratings of toys and other products based on product ingredients, screening for contaminants, and manufacturers' social policies.
GoodGuide tests for contaminants using a handheld device called an X-ray fluorescence gun. The test can detect antimony but cannot accurately measure toxic levels of the metal. That requires a different test, called a solubility test.
"We did not test these toys using the new government standard for toy companies to determine the 'soluble' level of contaminants in a toy," O'Rourke admits in a blog entry posted Monday on the GoodGuide web site.
Antimony is a silvery white metal element, usually mixed with other metals for use in batteries, solder, sheet and pipe metal, ammunition, and pewter. Antimony can harm health in concentrations greater than 60 parts per million.
SOURCES: News release, GoodGuide.