Some baby bibs contain lead, group says
By MARCUS WOHLSEN, Associated Press Writer
Wed Aug 15, 11:28 PM ET
Some vinyl baby bibs made in China and sold at Toys "R" Us stores contain lead levels well above federal safety limits for lead in paint, a California environmental group said Wednesday.
A bib with "Winnie the Pooh" characters and store-brand bibs sold under the Koala Baby and Especially for Baby labels all tested positive for lead in concentrations three to four times what the Environmental Protection Agency allows in paint, according to the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland.
The group bought the four bibs at San Francisco Bay-area Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Stores and contracted with a private lab that specializes in product safety to perform the tests.
"There's plenty of ways to make bibs without lead," said Caroline Cox, the center's research director. "I don't think we should be exposing children to this toxic metal unnecessarily."
Lead most commonly occurs in vinyl products as a stabilizer or a pigment. It can also occur unintentionally when recycled vinyl used for other purposes becomes part of a new product.
The Center for Environmental Health said that it had notified Toys "R" Us, the country's second-largest toy seller, that it intended to sue if the retailer failed to take the bibs off store shelves in California, a state with especially strict rules on lead exposure.
A Toys "R" Us spokeswoman said tests performed in May by a lab contracted by the company found that the bibs met not just federal standards but California's more stringent limits on lead content. But more bibs were being pulled from the shelves Wednesday for further testing, spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh said.
"If we find that they do not meet our testing standards, we will pull them from the shelves," Waugh said.
Consumer anxiety over Chinese goods has swirled in recent months with the discovery of contaminated pet food, toothpaste, seafood and toys made in the country. Worries intensified Tuesday after Mattel Inc. recalled millions more toys made in the country because of lead paint - the company's second such recall in two weeks.
Though Toys "R" Us regularly tests the products it sells for lead, Waugh said, the May tests were prompted by Wal-Mart's decision that month to recall lead-tainted vinyl bibs from its stores nationwide. Wal-Mart's recall came after another lawsuit brought by the Center for Environmental Health.
Both the bibs sold by Wal-Mart and Toys "R" Us were manufactured in China for Louisiana-based Hamco Baby Products.
Hamco officials did not immediately return messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.
A statement issued by Hamco at the time of the Wal-Mart recall did not address whether their bibs contained lead but quoted an industry trade group statement suggesting that the risk of babies ingesting lead even if the bibs were tainted was slight.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a statement in May saying that the lead-contaminated bibs were safe if in good condition. But if a bib "deteriorates to the point that a baby could pull or bite off and swallow a piece of vinyl containing lead, then the amounts of lead consumed could approach levels of concern," the agency said.
Experts on lead exposure in children said the latest discovery of the toxin in the bibs was cause for concern.
At the same time, more testing using a larger sample size was likely necessary to verify that the contamination was indeed widespread, said Joseph H. Graziano, a professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. The Center for Environmental Health tested four bibs.
The New York Times on Wednesday reported that separate tests by a laboratory hired by the newspaper found similar lead levels in the same varieties of Toys "R" Us bibs bought in Maryland.
Studies have repeatedly shown that childhood exposure to lead can cause learning problems, reduced intelligence, hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder. Average U.S. lead levels in the blood have dropped sharply in recent decades since the metal was restricted in paint and gasoline.
Still, the elimination of lead from consumer goods altogether should be the goal, said Graziano, whose research lab developed the drug used to treat lead poisoning.
"The public health success story is because we have attacked the exposure at each and every source," Graziano said.
On the Net:
Center for Environmental Health, http://www.cehca.org/babybibs.htm
Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
Copyright © 2007 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.