Thursday, December 16, 2010

High heavy metal levels in toys, lipsticks

Children's toys and lipsticks are at the centre of a Ministry of Consumer Affairs investigation which has found a toy that contains lead 314 times over the allowable limit.

Investigators, who found the toys during random sampling in Auckland, were stunned by their findings and are working to discover how widely the products have been sold. But it is understood some are being sold nationally in discount stores.

The toxic substance, which can cause vomiting and death, was found in the paint of several children's toys - one of them an imitation version of the popular Bakugan Battle Brawlers.

A Combat Mission Gun was found with 28,280mg of lead per kilogram in its yellow paint. The legal limit is 90mg.

Another toy, the Super Motivity Truck, was 292 times the limit.

Other toys found to have too much lead were a Kinder-Gartengerate-set gardening set, Team Quick Stunt Moto and Action Team Assault Rifle.

Outlets selling the toys include Coin Save, Bargain City, Golden House, Dollar City and Fashion Leader stores.

The Coin Save products are understood to be in stores nationwide but investigators are awaiting public responses to media coverage last night and today before to gauge the scale of the problem.

If children put the toys in their mouths, lead poisoning could cause vomiting, stomach pains, difficulty sleeping, constipation and appetite loss.

However, Commerce Commission enforcement manager Greg Allan said yesterday no one was thought to have become unwell from the toys.

The commission, which took over the investigation after the Ministry of Health sampling, cannot issue a recall until it has found a distribution network for the toys.

In the meantime, it is advising anyone who has bought the toys to return them urgently or throw them out.

"These products, while not targeted specifically at small children, would pose a significant health risk to a small child if they were to chew or suck on them. The migratable lead in some of the products is at alarmingly high levels. Parents and caregivers need to immediately remove these toys from the household."

A company found to have breached regulations can be fined $200,000 and an individual $60,000.

The random testing also uncovered four brands of children's lipstick which were recalled yesterday after being found with small amounts of lead and barium and barely detectable levels of antimony, arsenic, cadmium and chromium - which are prohibited from use in cosmetics.

It is not known yet how widely these lipsticks are distributed.

The Ministry of Health has taken over the lipstick investigation because there are different laws for toys (governed by the Commerce Commission) and for cosmetics.

Ministry of Health spokesman Dr John Holmes said the lipstick recall was a precautionary measure.

"These lipsticks contain low levels of toxic substances which should not be used in cosmetics at all. People who have purchased these products should immediately dispose of them or return them to the retailer."

Although exposure to the metals at these low levels is unlikely to cause adverse health effects for most people, Dr Holmes said people could react differently. Anyone with concerns should contact their family doctor.


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