Zhu Zhu pets are this year’s Tickle Me Elmos, but they may be toxic. Consumer green watchdog group GoodGuide rated Zhu Zhus a 5.2 out of 10 after finding unacceptable levels of the poison antimony in the fur and nose of the popular Mr. Squiggles Zhu Zhu.
Russ Hornsby, the CEO of Zhu Zhu’s maker, St. Louis-based Cepia LLC, disagrees that the hot toys are toxic, saying in a statement:
“We are disputing the findings of Good Guide and we are 100% confident that Mr. Squiggles, and all other Zhu Zhu Toys, are safe and compliant with all U.S. and European standards for consumer health and safety in toys. All our products are subjected to several levels of rigorous safety testing conducted by our own internal teams, as well as the world’s leading independent quality assurance testing organization, and also by independent labs engaged by our retail partners. The results of every test prove that our products are in compliance with all government and industry safety standards.”
Dara O’Rourke, an associate professor of environmental science at Univeristy of California Berkley, and CEO of GoodGuide begs to differ about compliance. GoodGuide’s results for Mr. Squiggles found “antimony measured at 93 parts per million in the hamster’s fur and at 106 parts per million in its nose,” when the allowable level is 60 parts per million. (NY POST)
So, what is antimony and why is it dangerous? Why are there “allowable” levels of it?
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances, antimony is a metal found in the earth’s crust that is mined and mixed with other metals to form alloys for use in batteries, sheet metal, pewter, and other items. It isn’t mined much in the U.S., but is brought in from other countries. When antimony is mixed with oxygen, it forms Antimony oxide, which is used in textiles and plastics to prevent them from catching fire. I’m guessing this is what it’s used for in Zhu Zhu pets.
We’re exposed to low levels of antimony every day because it’s found naturally in the environment, so we drink it, eat it, and breath in small amounts of it all the time. High levels of antimony, however, can cause stomach, heart, and lung problems, depending on how it’s ingested. If Zhu Zhu pets do have high levels of antimony, it’s probably not a safe toy for children, who are known to put objects in their mouths or not wash their hands after playing.
Because GoodGuide only tested one pet, the results shouldn’t be taken as proof that Zhu Zhu pets are toxic, but if more tests yield high levels of antimony, and other metals like tin, without a doubt parents and children need to focus on another hot item this holiday. I suggest paddle-ball.
A few weeks ago when buzz first picked up about the toys that zoom around like real hamsters, they were affordable at about $10 each. Now they are increasingly difficult to find on store shelves, and are popping up in places like ebay for over $60. You can picked some up for about $34 plus shipping at Amazon, but that probably won’t last for long.