Posts Tagged: hamster toy

The Zhu Zhu Toy Kerfuffle

By Marci Greenstein

If it’s the holiday season, it must be time for scary stories about toys.  Usually they’re brought to you by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal agency that is supposed to protect our kids from dangerous toys. Just look at its current list of hazardous toys.  But the CPSC is not as muscular a watchdog as it should be (an Understanding Government in-depth report explains why).

Our family discovered that a few years ago when Thomas the Tank Engine toys made in China were found to have dangerously high levels of lead.  (A law limiting lead in toys went into effect last February.)  More and more consumer advocacy groups are testing toys and putting their findings on the internet.  To its credit, the CPSC takes note of these reports.

Recently, as Melanie Trottman and Ann Zimmerman write in the Wall Street Journal, GoodGuide.com caused near panic among parents who brought the popular Zhu Zhu pet hamster toys, which GoodGuide said contained higher levels of the chemical antimony than government standards permit. Antimony, which is used as a fire retardant, is found in nature, but at high levels can be toxic.  The CPSC countered that GoodGuide tested the toys incorrectly – testing the amount of the chemical on the product’s surface, rather than the amount that dissolves in liquid and released from the toy, the federal government’s testing standard.  GoodGuide acknowledged its mistake (and you can’t find a reference to it on their site today).

What troubles me is that there doesn’t seem to be a debate about GoodGuide’s findings, just that government standards have been met.  Well, if my son were 4 and not 14, I wouldn’t be satisfied with a standard that allows dangerous levels of harmful chemicals on the outside of a toy.  I’d be ditching those toys pronto. Shouldn’t we be asking — demanding — a different standard of safety for these toys, rather than be lulled into complacency by the fact that the toy met the current standard?  With all of the stories about environmental hazards in the home, shouldn’t we raise the bar on what’s acceptable to have around our house, and around our children?