Are Zhu Zhu Pets Toxic?

MSNBC is reporting that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) just initiated an investigation into Zhu Zhu Pets toys. The popular toys might contain a higher than permissible level of the <"">heavy metal antimony, which can sicken children if ingested, said MSNBC citing NBC News.

CPSC is looking into the Zhu Zhu pet toy and we will complete our review swiftly,” the agency said in a statement quoted by MSNBC. “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 statement went on to say.

The agency’s investigation followed the naming of Zhu Zhu Pets as one of the top selling toys with low ratings by GoodGuide of San Francisco, said MSNBC. The toy pets are hamsters and the toxin was found on the hair and nose of one of the hamsters—Mr. Squiggles—said MSNBC. The toy, which is targeted to three-to10-year-olds, received a 5.2 rating on a 10-point scale, added MSNBC.

Antimony is used to prevent textiles and plastics from catching fire and when one is exposed over a period of time, can suffer adverse reactions, including cancer, to the lung and heart, as well as diarrhea and ulcers, said MSNBC. To be discovered in a popular children’s toy is worrisome, especially given that we are in the midst of the popular holiday shopping season.

The toy maker—Cepia LLC—located in St. Louis, Missouri, argued in a statement that Mr. Squiggles is “absolutely safe,” having passed what was described as “rigorous testing,” said MSNBC. Cepia also stated that it would be in contact with GoodGuides to share its testing information and learn how the GoodGuides report was founded, added MSNBC. “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, quoted MSNBC.

Zhu Zhu Pets sell for about $10 and have become exceedingly popular this holiday season at retailers such as Wal-Mart, Toys “R” Us, and Target; the toys have allegedly sold for upwards of $40 at resellers including online sites such as eBay and Craigslist, MNBC pointed out.

The toys’ popularity caught the attention of GoodGuide, said its CEO Dara O’Rourke to the Associated Press (AP), adding that the group purchased a number of this year’s most popular toys, testing each on a variety of occasions, said MSNBC. Regarding Zhu Zhu Pets’ Mr. Squiggles, the toxin antimony was measured at 93 parts per million (ppm) on the fur and 106 ppm in the nose, which both exceed 60 ppm, the highest allowable level of the chemical, reported MSNBC, sighting O’Rourke. O’Rourke is also an associate professor of environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Not unexpectedly, O’Rourke said the results also pointed to potential phthalate contamination, another chemical that has seen increased regulations under last year’s Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), said MSNBC. The Act included stringent lead limits, in addition to phthalate bans in toys, and also contained mandatory heavy metal limitations, including limitations on antimony, said MSNBC.

The TimesOnline described the toy—which is being rationed due to its intense popularity this season—as a “battery-powered robotic” hamster, one of four such toys. The toys is described, said the TimesOnline as: “Mr. Squiggles is a true Hamster ‘Prankster.”

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