Zhu Zhu Pets May Contain Poisonous Substance: Should You Care?

This holiday season’s inexplicably hot toy, Zhu Zhu Pets, may be hazardous to your health. And not just because many parents stood outside in the cold for hours to get one. No, according to green ratings guide GoodGuide.com, the cuddly robot toys contain high levels of the substance antimony, which could be hazardous.

Antimony is used as a catalyst in the production of polyester, so it’s not surprising to find it in a plastic toy. GoodGuide claims that Zhu Zhu pets contain more antimony than federal guidelines allow, but toy maker Cepia LLC denies the allegations.

“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,” Russ Hornsby, CEO of Cepia, said in a written statement. “The results of every test prove that our products are in compliance with all government and industry safety standards.”

Bruce Katz, a senior vice president of Cepia, told CNN: “They do not contain high levels of antimony in any way.”

“None of these tests have failed over the many months we’ve been producing this product,” Katz said.

While Zhu Zhu Pets get all the headlines, GoodGuide also rated other top holiday toys. Mattel’s Princess Tiana doll contains chlorine and tin. The Transformers Construction Devastator action figures also contain chlorine. The My First Purse set also contains antimony. Either we’re handing our children piles of toys that will kill them (possible), or the tests GoodGuide uses are radically different from standard toy industry tests.

So don’t rush to bring your Zhu Zhu Pets back to the store where you rushed to buy them quite yet. Despite the rumors, no recalls have been issued.

Zhu Zhu Pets Hampster Mr. Squiggles-Light Brown [GoodGuide]
Consumer group claims Zhu Zhu hamsters unsafe [CNN]

Comments

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  1. supergaijin says:

    This is just media grandstanding. The ONE ZhuZhu that came back over the limit (the Brown one) was out of spec by about 10%. The OTHER toys on their list were out of spec by 50%, 100%, 200%, 300%! The amount over was so small that I would call it an anomaly. It’s a disservice to consumers that the actual table of results isn’t being published or even NOTED in most news reports on this non-issue. I’ve only seen the table with the results ONCE, and ZhuZhu was very close to in-spec.

  2. Trai_Dep says:

    I thought that animony was what husbands stashed in their off-shore accounts before they divorced their wives.

  3. Tian (www.tian.cc) says:

    f prnts r stpd ngh t prchs trnd-hypd tys t pps thr chldrn, fck thm. Pls, f nyn vr hndld nythng tht s n lctrc crct brd n t, y prbbl gt sm ntmn n y t.

  4. Razor512 says:

    the kids are playing with the toys, not eating them.

    also those toys are overpriced for what they do.

    • gethenian says:

      If you think no kids will be attempting to eat/chew on/suck on their toys, you plainly have never met a kid, and possibly have never been one either.

    • Julia789 says:

      I’d have no problem giving this toy to my eight-year-old, but if I had a toddler I’d supervise when they used it to make sure it didn’t go in the mouth.

    • DangerMouth says:

      No toy is overpriced if it does what a toy should do- keep them quiet for a while.

      Course, when I was a kid, we played with rocks and were happy to have them. (and you kids get off my lawn!)

  5. FDCPAGuy says:

    What no ‘chinese poison train’ tag? I swear I’ve been looking a lot at wooden toys lately for my 9 mo old son. At least those will hopefully be less likely to contain all this crud the mass marketed, churned out from china, toys have.

    • Guppy06 says:

      Depends on the wood they’re made out of. Wouldn’t want to give out wooden toys treated with arsenic.

  6. Nick1693 says:

    Why should a company be based on “social” things like “workplace diversity” on the same site as product safety?

    I don’t care how diverse the company is, I just want the toy to not kill anyone.

  7. skitzogreg says:

    Because, you know, every 9-12 year old doesn’t play with Zhu Zhu Pets. They chew on them to get nothing more than an antimony buzz. (/sarcasm)

    These reports to nothing more than frighten overly cautious parents about what could possibly harm their children if exposed to certain conditions. This being said, a recall needs to be made for these toys;

    1) All plugin toys should be recalled due to the fact if played with in the bathtub there could be a potential shock hazard.

    2) Easy Bake Ovens need to be recalled due to the possibility of eating undercooked goods.

    3) Barbie should be recalled due to the possibility of younger brothers maliciously dismembering the dolls. Once dismembered, the limbs are a choking hazard.

    Seriously media, stop.

  8. Eldritch says:

    I know nothing about these things, except that one of the fly by night kiosks in the local mall got some and there was basically a riot of parents to buy them (and probably at a high markup). Mall security and local police had to be called to control the crowd. Just for toy hamsters. It boggles the mind.

  9. misterfuss says:

    And they don’t even poop in your hand!

  10. JennyDreadful says:

    FFS. Don’t buy into the hype of these things.

    Just buy your kid a real hamster.
    You then can teach them a valuable lesson about feeding, watering and generally taking care of pets.
    Should they fail that lesson, you can teach them a lesson about death.

    Teachable moments are everywhere!

  11. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Those poison hats look like little pirate hats! Makes me giddy.

    If you accept that everything most likely has some kind of danger to it, you’ll be more pleased to know that at least your walls probably aren’t covered in lead-based paint anymore. People are just way too overzealous these days. Even when I was a kid in the 90s, I not only regularly crawled around in dirt and forest and all sorts of muck, I also ate things that apparently contained some kind of melamine or industrial dirt from the factory. And I’m okay! So are thousands and millions of other kids.

    This is a total non-starter. Just make sure your kids aren’t trying to eat the hamster for dinner, and you’ll be fine.

    • Viciouspixie says:

      Yeah, I recall sitting beside my dad as he was tinkering.. and playing with a block of wood about 3″ nails and a hammer.. I was about 5 at the time. (I made what could be considered abstract art!)

      Of course this is what happens when your father is an engineer…

      If your child is at a stage where everything goes in mouth, then maybe a germ collecting fabric squishy toy is not the best choice of entertainment for them.

      Some common sense goes a long way – otherwise we’ll lower ourselves into the mass paranoia of swearing dolls and poisonous rodents~

  12. thisistobehelpful says:

    I enjoy how everything can become the end of the world. A robot hamster apocalypse sounds like the most enjoyable kind of doom and I can still blame it on Japan for including both robots and cute.

    How does the antimony get into the body? Is it absorbed through the skin? Ingested? Inhaled? There are loads of things that are incredibly bad for you but need ingestion or inhalation to do damage. I could see if a child chewed on this there would be cause for concern but it’s not targeted at that age group. In houses where younger children are present what’s the actual danger? From the description of the possible injury it doesn’t sound like petting the robotic hamster will actually do anything.

  13. H3ion says:

    I thought these things actually were manufactured in China so if they didn’t present some hazard, the Chinese factory just isn’t doing the job right. Kids would have a bigger problem if they ate the batteries that these things run on than if they ate the toy itself. So get your kid a set of blocks, but be careful of the splinters.

  14. TheSmartMama says:

    The testing completed by the Good Guide was xrf – or x-ray fluorescence using a Niton XRF analyzer. The XRF analyzer only tests for total antimony. The US standard is for soluble antimony – soluble antimony in paints and surface coatings, and must be completed by a digestve laboratory method. So the Good Guide’s report is comparing apples to oranges. And, btw, I perform XRF testing for a living.

  15. MSchott says:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091206/ap_on_bi_ge/us_zhu_zhu_pets_safety

    “GoodGuide CEO Dara O’Rourke told The Associated Press on Saturday that his group bought three of each of the year’s 30 hottest toys and tested them multiple times.”

    Do three toys, no matter how many “multiple times” they are tested, really count as a reliable representation of the thousands of toys that get produced?

  16. humphrmi says:

    From my memory of college chemistry, antimony is a sulfide (some people mis-characterize it as a metal, because it looks like one, but it doesn’t act like one.) It’s used widely – it replaced Sulfur in matches many years ago because it’s safer than Sulfur. It’s used in batteries, cables, plumbing, and lead-free solder among other things. It’s neatest characteristic is that it vaporizes at very low temperatures. Imagine taking a metal-looking chunk and putting it in the freezer and seeing it vaporize. Cool (for Chem nerds).

    At low dosages, with direct ingestion, it causes headaches, dizziness, and depression. Direct ingestion of higher dosages causes violent vomiting and death. I’m getting this from an old chem book, and it doesn’t outline what indirect ingestion (as might happen if you handle a toy that was made with it) might cause. However the book has several labs that involve touching samples of it, so I suspect it’s pretty low risk.

    Disclaimer: IANAC (Chemist), I’m just reading from a college chem book.

    • humphrmi says:

      OK the freezing to watch it vaporize part was a mis-read; low vaporization temps mean relatively lower than water boiling at 1 ATM.

      Which is still pretty cool.

      Whatever. You don’t care. Read on.

      • The Porkchop Express says:

        I do care and I was about to buy some tainted robotic hamsters and freeze them to un-taint them.

        of course un-tainting any mammal will lead to urinary tract infection.

  17. Wrathernaut says:

    This is why I whittle my own pet hamsters from non-GMO plants fertilized with my own waste.

  18. wvFrugan says:

    We gay men want to know, ARE OUR MECHANICAL GERBALING DEVICES SAFE?

  19. mandy_Reeves says:

    yay they used my tip! I wonder if antimony is more potent to cats and dogs? See, I intend to purchase these as a toy for my shih tzu, and she will end up gnawing on the fur.

  20. Gravitational Eddy says:

    In other news…children here were found to contain unusually high levels of children, possibly showing a failure in the parent corporation to provide completely safe children. The excess level of children contamination is now under serious investigation by the US Dept of Children And Families, and although this is a serious problem that can affect the health and welfare of children, sources say this is not an isolated instance. Previously, contaminated children were sent back to the factory to be recycled back into children, but high levels of contamination were traced back to -Mad Children Disease- in which the degeneration was advanced – possibly due to over-exposure from the contaminated children.
    Sources say that if you suspect your children are contaminated, please return them to the manufacurter, and advise the manufacturer of where (which parent unit) they were made.
    That parent unit retains the full original quality controls and can easily repair the situation.

  21. Cameraman says:

    I got all worried about this until I remembered that my wife and I are responsible parents who supervise our toddler’s playtime. All we have to do is keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t chew on his Zhu Zhu and we’ll be fine.

    And he doesn’t chew on it, anyway, he’s too busy chasing it around the living room, shreiking and laughing and giggling. Totally worth waiting in line at Toy’s Backwards R Us for, in my opinion.

  22. Zombini says:

    Bitterwallet.com have a decent article about this, cutting through some of the bullshit the mainstream press have been coming up with. Here’s a few choice quotes..

    ‘For starters, antimony is everywhere. It’s used to produce batteries, cable sheathing, matches and solder, and flame-retardant material – in children’s clothing, toys, aircraft and seat covers. It’s a common element in the production of electronics, and it’s used to flameproof glass and pottery. We even drink antimony – it’s used to produce the plastic bottles we drink water from – the slight acidity of water causes antimony to leach into the water, but at levels well within safety limits.’

    ‘Yes, Go Go Hamsters are potentially harmful to your children, but only if they eat a whole one and only if they contain the sort of antimony that their stomach acids can leach out, but then there’s more chance of them choking to death in the attempt. According to the same US health body that set the safety limits for antimony, the only real risk of adverse health would occur if you fed significant amounts to your child every day for several weeks – not only does your child have to eat one Go Go Hamster, but several of them.’

    They go on to say how the original GoodGuide report got liquid antimony mixed up with solid antimony, and more..

  23. subtlefrog says:

    Everyone is so concerned about the kid chewing on a toy. Y’all realize that heavy metals (whatever the metal) can be absorbed through the skin, right?

    I’m not saying that a ZhuZhu pet 10% over the limit is going to kill precious Timmy, or that it’s even dangerous – I don’t know the limits on different metals – but I do know that metals do go through our absorptive skin.

  24. Outrun1986 says:

    The report on the news last night said that most of the chemical in question is mostly in the nose of the pet, and that its dangerous if a child touches the nose and then touches their mouth, or if the kid chews on the toy (or if a younger sibling picks up the toy and starts to chew on it). I am just repeating what I heard, I don’t really know anything about this and frankly I think the Zhu Zhu is ugly and has a really stupid name. There are much cuter things out there than a Zhu Zhu pet.

  25. Chinchillazilla says:

    When I got a Furby, I was never tempted to gnaw on him. Particularly because he emitted a nasty burnt-rubber smell when he ran too long.

    But, I would like to point out that for media inquiries, they want you to contact Grant Deady. That’s suspicious!

  26. johnmc says:

    I’d be more willing to put my faith in their testing abilities if they could actually spell ‘hamster’.

  27. twindependent says:

    Goodguide gave an even lower safety rating to a basic set of Legos, and I spent most of my childhood trying to get those apart with my teeth.

    But they’ve gotten a lot of free press for their “study,” haven’t they?

  28. Xzigraz says:

    I think it’s China’s fault. End of story.

  29. TheSmartMama says:

    As I blogged about yesterday, the Good Guide used XRF analysis, which only tests for total antimony in the Zhu ZHu pets. But the US standard is for soluble antimony. So the Good Guide was flatly WRONG when it claimed that the Zhu Zhu pets violated US standards. It had no evidence to support.

    The Good Guide admitted this today. It admitted that it used the wrong test method to compare to the US standard – you can’t compare total results to a soluble standard. So why didn’t media verify the claims? It was easy enough to determine that the correct standard was soluble (see CPSC website; also see ASTM F963 made mandatory as of 2/10/09 by the CPSIA). I called shame on the Good Guide yesterday.

    And, in fact, today via Twitter, the CPSC announced it found no violations either.

  30. Winteridge2 says:

    Sure, watch me stand in line to buy one! Are these made in China, by any chance? People are nuts.