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December 7, 2009 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has opened an investigation into the popular Zhu Zhu Pets toy because it may contain a higher than allowed level of antimony, a heavy metal which if ingested can make children sick, NBC News reported.
“CPSC is looking into the Zhu Zhu pet toy and we will complete our review swiftly,” the agency said in a statement. “With new safety measures in place for children and toy recalls down from previous years, consumers can have greater confidence when shopping this year and in the CPSC.”
The CPSC probe came after San Francisco-based GoodGuide named Zhu Zhu Pets hamsters one of the top-selling toys with low ratings after finding the chemical on the hair and nose of one of the toy hamsters, called Mr. Squiggles.
The group assigned the toy, aimed at 3- to 10-year-olds, a rating of 5.2 on a 10-point scale.
On prolonged exposure, antimony — which is used in textiles and plastics to prevent them from catching fire — can cause lung and heart problems, ulcers and diarrhea.
But the toy’s maker, St. Louis-based Cepia LLC, insisted in a statement that its Mr. Squiggles toy is “absolutely safe” and has passed rigorous testing. The company said it was contacting GoodGuide to share its testing data and determine how the report was founded.
“I have been in the toy industry for more than 35 years, and being a father of children myself, I would never allow any substandard or unsafe product to hit the shelves,” Russ Hornsby, Cepia’s CEO, said in the statement.
Zhu Zhu Pets, which retail for about $10, have become this season’s toy craze, following in the footsteps of Tickle Me Elmo and Cabbage Patch Kids. The small hamster toys are available at Wal-Mart, Toys “R” Us, Target and other retailers, but can fetch $40 or more on resale Web sites like eBay and Craigslist.
That’s what brought it to GoodGuide’s attention. GoodGuide CEO Dara O’Rourke told The Associated Press on Saturday that his group bought three of each of the year’s 30 hottest toys and tested them multiple times.
Antimony was measured at 93 parts per million in the hamster’s fur and at 106 parts per million in its nose. Both readings exceed the allowable level of 60 parts per million, said O’Rourke, an associate professor of environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley.
O’Rourke said GoodGuide’s test results, released Friday, also indicated the possibility that some toys contained phthalates, chemicals that were subject to tougher standards in the Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) passed last year.
The CPSIA created some of the toughest lead limits in the world and banned certain phthalates in toys, and included mandatory limits on other heavy metals, such as antimony.
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