Mattel's Toy Blood Pressure Cuff's Paint Was About 5% Lead

Just how much lead was in that toy blood pressure cuff Mattel were so reluctant to recall back in February? The one they said “me federal regulations and international consumer product safety standards?” Well, a reader’s scientist friend working in lab tested it on the equipment there. According to his results, the amount of lead in the paint was 4-5% lead by weight. “For reference,” he writes, “U.S. EPA HUD guidelines set the action limit for paint at 0.5% lead by weight. Any level over 0.5% is considered to be contaminated…Lead paint used on houses 50 years ago had lead content of 2-15%.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. lolababy says:


    But seriously, tons of people had to design, create, manufacture, and sign off on this toy. Tons. How does something that is ten times over the legal limit of lead able to get past all those people?

    But the irony is pretty great.

    • Coles_Law says:

      @lolababy: The prototype was probably made with different paint-I don’t think they actively chose a 5% lead paint. Still highly irresponsible of them for dragging their feet on the recall.

    • econobiker says:

      @lolababy: “How does something that is ten times over the legal limit of lead able to get past all those people?”

      It is called Chinese toy manufacturing. Most all of these lead in toys issues are results from scammy toy subcontractors in China. Most toy companies don’t actually own a factory in China or might just own the final assembly factory so the components are all subcontracted. If the Chinese do this with toys think what they try with auto parts and medicines… People have in fact died because of adulterated medicinal ingrediants from China…

  2. lolababy says:

    is something, rather.

  3. seawolf2000 says:

    irony is delicious, so is lead

  4. ichha says:

    The lead level determined will depend on the method used. Like a X-Ray technique may not provide an accurate estimate and the margin of error on that is also pretty high.

    Also, the limit set for the lead in paint was .6%. However, with the new Toy Safety Improvement Act the limit will be reduced to .09% in Paints and coatings from early next year (around February 2009).

  5. humphrmi says:

    Am I the only confused by the statement “U.S. EPA HUD guidelines set the action limit for paint at 0.5% lead by weight. Any level over 0.5% is considered to be contaminated.”

    What does “action limit” mean? What does “contaminated” (by HUD guidelines) mean? What do Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards have to do with toy blood pressure cuffs? Not trying to shill for the MFR’s here, but this piece seems short on info.

    Also, why did I (a 45 year old) live with apparently huge amounts of lead in my childhood toys, and apparently not suffer any consequences? Or is the fact that I’m asking the questions above a clear indication that I’m suffering from lead poisoning?

    • floraposte says:

      @humphrmi: I share most of those questions, but I can answer one. HUD is the overseer of the Office of Lead Hazard Control, presumably because it’s been historically viewed as a housing issue, lead paint on walls rather than on toys. Since they had an infrastructure in place for lead issues, it makes sense that they’re involved here, and it looks like they’re working jointly with the EPA.

      But I too am left wondering about the difference between an “action limit” and a “limit.” Maybe the former is poseable?

    • ReidFleming says:

      @humphrmi: “Also, why did I (a 45 year old) live with apparently huge amounts of lead in my childhood toys, and apparently not suffer any consequences?”

      It all depends on if you were actually exposed and when it occurred. The ‘if’ part is really all about what kind of lead it was. Left-over dust from a sanded door jamb is bad (apparently, kids don’t really eat lots of paint chips) and the toy problem would be an issue if you put it in your mouth a lot. I can remember putting Legos in my mouth but not much more than that. Did you put your fingers in your mouth after crawling around the baseboards after some remodeling?

      The ‘when’ part is equally-important. If the exposure was under the age of six years old. When you combine those two factors, the results can be horrible. Think of it this way, lap belts were the norm when I was growing up. We still have a ’63 Sunbeam Alpine in the garage that only has ’em. Shoulder restraints are better, yes? Then again, we never wrecked when we drove the Sunbeam so what’s the big deal?

  6. ichha says:

    Sorry the limit was 0.06% (600 ppm) and now it will be reduced to 0.009% (90 ppm) in paints/coatings.

    0.5% is already too high and above the allowed limit

  7. FLConsumer says:

    It wouldn’t be modern medicine if it weren’t hazardous to your health in some way. All it needs now is FDA approval, followed by a retraction of approval in 3-5 years to be a real medical product.

  8. Accurate laboratory equipment could only generate results of ” 4-5% lead by weight “

    Oh please, what a can of malarky.

    I have no doubt lead was present, and it might have even seriously violated Federal Law, but next time find a laboratory that can generate accurate results. ” 4-5% lead by weight ” is about totally meaningless considering the standard is reported in ppm and the testing equipment must be able to resolve results in finer units than the standard.

    (Comparatively the ” 4-5% lead by weight ” is the same as a cop declaring you were drunk because he smelled alcohol on your breath… you might be drunk, but the court is going to require something else to backup his claim)

  9. GamblesAC2 says:

    and just when you thought the train finaly departed for good!

  10. madog says:

    My scientist friend. Well, he’s more of a computer science major but that’s still a scientist right? I mean, “science” is part of the course name after all. Oh, and he’s not really a friend he’s more of an acquaintance if anything. Then again, I don’t really KNOW the guy, per se, but I do know a couple people who have met him before at a party. They said he was really smart and stuff. Anyway, he told me that this toy has lots of lead in it.

  11. Antediluvian says:

    I have a serious problem w/ the headline: “Mattel’s Toy Blood Pressure Cuff Was About 5% Lead”

    It’s WRONG. The (disturbingly vague) text of the post (no article linked) says “the amount of lead in the paint was 4-5% lead by weight.”

    The headline should read, “Mattel’s Toy Blood Pressure Cuff’s Paint Was About 5% Lead”

    The way it’s written implies the plastic material is 5% lead. This is a HUGE difference from the PAINT being 5% lead.

    I really think the headline needs to be changed in the interests of accuracy and fairness.

    • Ben Popken says:

      @Antediluvian: Good point.

    • PDX909 says:


      I might be wrong here but I don’t think there was paint on the cuff, I believe the colorizer in the PVC material had a high lead content. Typically most polymers that are compounded with a coloring agent or dyed at the molding machine consist of between 2% and 10% colorant. It’s that agent that has the lead in it as it produces a more consistent and vibrant color.

      • Antediluvian says:

        @PDX909: You could be completely correct that the lead was in the colorizer, I really don’t know — but the way the post was written it said “the lead in the paint” so I based my concern over the headline on that.

        If I understand your statement, if the coloring agent was 10% of the product, the agent would have to be 50% lead for the final product to be 5% lead, right? That seems really high – wow.

        I wonder how these high amounts of lead — whatever they actually are — affect the workers in the plants that make them?

  12. Man I don’t know how many times I played with lead thing when I was a kid. Like lead sinkers for fishing. I actually put them in my teeth and pressed them onto the line. And I’m not dead yet. Sure over exposure is dangerous but what over exposure to anything isn’t? Ya gotta die from something.

    • purplesun says:

      From []

      The symptoms of chronic lead poisoning include neurological problems, such as reduced cognitive abilities, or nausea, abdominal pain, irritability, insomnia, metal taste in oral cavity, excess lethargy or hyperactivity, chest pain, headache and, in extreme cases, seizure and coma. There are also associated gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, poor appetite, weight loss, which are common in acute poisoning. Other associated effects are anemia, kidney problems, and reproductive problems.

      Personally, I’d rather die from something else. Getting hit by a bus, maybe.

  13. Triborough says:

    There is a very simple solution to solving problems like this: don’t make toys in Red China!

  14. incognit000 says:

    Action limit – the point at which a recall becomes mandatory instead of just strongly suggested.

    The EPA has guidelines for when things are unsafe, but it gives a wide buffer room to companies because this saves them money. An item that is only a little over the unsafe limit is probably not that much of a threat to the public and so the EPA merely suggests that a recall be ordered. Recalls are /very/ expensive and most of the time it’s considered acceptable to let a product persist on the market and either reprimand or fine the company responsible instead of recalling the product. Once it crosses the Action Limit threshold, that’s not an option anymore.

    Why, do you ask, does the EPA do this? Because most of the people working for the EPA now used to work for the companies it regulates, and vice versa. It’s called the revolving door policy, and it’s been chronic in government agencies ever since Reagan started slashing salaries, contracting out key functions, and demonizing public servants.

  15. oneliketadow says:

    “me federal”? Should be “met federal”

  16. lingum says:

    Lead = yum.

  17. slingshotmike says:

    Is it 5% of .5% ?? Big Difference