High levels of lead were found in a handful of well-known baby products made of vinyl plastic by an environmental group based in California that spread the word about lead on vinyl baby bibs and lunchboxes.
Center for Environmental Health
The products include a Medela-brand cooler for storing breast milk, a cooler sold with the First Years breast pump manufactured by RC2, a Playtex baby bottle cooler and a vinyl pacifier carrying case made by Skip Hop.
The Center for Environmental Health, the group that did the tests, purchased the products in January and tested them first with a hand-held metal detector and then at a laboratory. The products were found to have from 1,100 parts per million of lead to 5,500 parts per million of lead, the group says.
Still, the findings are bound to be criticized within the plastics and childrens products industries, which claim that lead in plastic is not a health concern. Federal law bans lead from paint used on toys and other childrens products, but there is no mandatory federal rule about lead inside other materials in childrens products.
Legislators are considering new laws about product safety, and one provision in the proposed law would put a limit on the total amount of lead that could be in childrens products, no matter the materials. If enacted, that limit might forbid lead in plastic at the levels found by the California group. The group contends that no level of lead is safe in childrens products.
"Its a product for a baby. It just shouldnt have lead in it," said Charles Margulis, a spokesman for the group, which is releasing its findings Monday. The toy and plastics industries say that lead in plastic is not a health hazard and that the lead in the plastic is not accessible.
"This is really an attempt to tag on to the lead-in-paint issue, but its a very different issue because this is not something that chips off," said Frederick B. Locker, general counsel for both the Toy Industry Association and the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association.
In November, Consumer Reports magazine found lead in the arm band of the toy blood-pressure cuff made by Mattel. The toy maker is accepting returns of the blood-pressure toy, but it did not issue a recall. Toys "R" Us was among the companies that pulled the blood-pressure toy from its shelves after the finding.
Medela, Skip Hop and RC2 said on Friday that they were investigating the California groups finding. Playtex could not reached for comment. RC2 is the company that manufactured the Thomas and Friends toys that were recalled for lead paint last summer.
Allen Blakey, a spokesman for the Vinyl Institute, an trade group based in Arlington, Va., said it was unclear how lead could have gotten in plastic childrens products. The vinyl industry in the United States stopped using lead in plastic years ago, he said, and instead uses tin, calcium, barium or zinc as a stabilizer to provide durability.