Babies R Us: Yep, This Teddy Bear Contains Lead. Thanks!

Reader Eric was appalled when he noticed a warning label on a teddy bear from Babies R Us that disclosed that the toy contained lead. He wrote to the company and got a response back confirming that, yes, the toy does contain lead, but it meets federal standards.

Eric writes:

We registered at Babies R Us – not because we particularly love the store, but we don’t have many options where we live and its a big chain convenient to our families. One of the presents we got was this cute little teddy bear with a gift card. We thought that was great and would make a nice little toy for our baby girl… until we read the attached tag. It says:

“WARNING: Contains lead. May be harmful if eaten or chewed. May generate dust containing lead.”

We were shocked.

He cc’d us on his email to Babies R Us and also forwarded their response. In it, they explain that the bear meets federal standards, but that there is a state law in Illinois requiring them to disclose lead levels higher than 40ppm. Here it is:

FW: Lead-Based Teddy Bear

Discussion Thread
Customer – 10/06/2010 10:59 AM
Dear Mr. [redacted],

Thank you for contacting Toys “R” Us.

We appreciate your concern regarding the teddy bear that you received.

Toys “R” Us remains committed to ensuring the safety of the products we sell, and has put in place industry-leading product safety standards that meet and exceed federally mandated requirements. All of the products we sell meet federal standards for lead in children’s products. With respect to paint and surface coatings, this means that the items do not exceed 90 ppm of lead.

Illinois has enacted a state law requiring that certain children’s products bear a warning label if their paint and surface coats exceed a lead limit of 40 ppm, which is lower than federal standards require. To comply with this new Illinois law, these labels are now affixed on the required items that are carried in all of our stores.

We remain committed to providing only the safest products for our guests, and we continue to look for ways to raise the bar on product safety.

Thank you, once again, for contacting Toys “R” Us.


The “R” Us Team

10-6-2010 4-18-50 PM.jpg


Edit Your Comment

  1. Alvis says:

    Well shoot, now he shouldn’t feed the bear to a child. Kid will just have to play with it without consuming it.

  2. fredbiscotti says:

    If only there were an American made teddy bear.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      And do these contain lead? I don’t see fine print to state either way.

      • fredbiscotti says:

        My point is that you don’t know what’s in Chinese products, and once you find out, how do you hold that business accountable? At least if it’s American made, you know that it’s subject to state and federal regulations, and if they’re lying, you have some legal recourse.

        If you’re still not sure about this, check out previous posts on Consumerist about Chinese drywall.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          And my point is that I STILL don’t know what’s in this AMERICAN product. I can’t even find where it says it’s made in America, only that it’s from a Vermont company, possibly.

          • Bunnies Attack! says:

            Its right on the front page… “hand made in vermont, guaranteed for life”… now, if there was a Vermont in Hubei province, China, that might be an issue…

      • BigSlowTarget says:

        Lead is a common element which has been vaporized and sprayed into the atmosphere in the past by cars. At this point everything contains some amount of lead. The key is how much does it contain.

    • Bativac says:

      Those are definitely handmade in Vermont.

      But where do the materials come from? The plastic eyes? The fabric? The stuffing?

      I hand-make puppets from fabric I buy in the US. I have no idea where that fabric is produced. I could end up with hand cancer one day for all I know.

  3. kityglitr says:

    That’s just how it works in America. You buy that bear in California and it will have the same tag. Buy it in Georgia? No tag. Some states have stricter laws than others concerning amts OVER the federal limits for things like lead or certain chemicals.

    • Hitchcock says:

      The California bear would also include a warning that the bear contains chemicals known to cause cancer.

      • dangerp says:

        I always found the phrasing awkward for these signs… “this facility contains chemicals know to the state of california to cause cancer and birth defects”. Wait, is the -state- of california the only one that knows about this? Why are they keeping it a secret? And what the heck kind of chemicals are we talking about here?

        • roguemarvel says:

          I always chuckle when I see those signs around malls…it so silly. they are all over the low end jewelry stores

        • Veeber says:

          Thought those were silly too. Especially since I was in a research facility where we were studying the possible cancerous effects of different chemicals. But I think even bleach is on that list.

      • daveinva says:

        Additionally, a California tag that says the bear may generate state-unapproved fun, and would thus be inappropriate for children.

  4. zandar says:

    Babies’ toys pretty much live in their mouths. If the kid ends up liking this bear, the bear will be chewed on many, many times.

    just in an attempt to leech out all the precious, precious lead, of course.

    • haggis for the soul says:

      And since kids are inexplicably drawn to whatever would kill them the fastest, they’d be all over this.

  5. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Sounds pretty cut and dry to me.

  6. MaxSmart32 says:

    As someone that works in the toy industry, CPSIA is the biggest pain in the ass…please don’t read too much into this.

    The company I work for sells science kits. Are there harmful chemicals in said kits? You betcha…

  7. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    There’s little chance of a baby nowadays eating lead paint chips, so how else is the baby going to get its essential minerals, if we don’t supply it through their toys?

  8. Disappointed says:

    Why is there lead in a teddy bear? I’m honestly baffled.

    • Starrion says:

      It’s in the paint on the bear.

      Small amounts of lead in paint are common, in this case it is half of what the federal government allows.

    • Mariushm says:

      It makes the paint shiny… probably used on the eyes and nose…

  9. sopmodm14 says:

    i think if it even contains a minute, trace of lead, they have to put in a disclaimer

    they are most likely right that it does meet federal standards though

    like, for the meats in a grocery store, its not written (in some states) that there are “additional animal products” in there, and like cereal and bugs

    if writer is scared about specs of lead, put the baby in a bubble

    now, it contains lead, somewhere b/w 1 and 40 ppm (parts per million)

    if he’s truly paranoid, then just return the item

    • Griking says:

      Do computers and video games consoles come with warnings about the ingredients that they’re made out of? What about cell phones? Maybe its just me but I’ve always assumed that pretty much everything that wasn’t meant to be consumed can be dangerous if consumed.

    • mszabo says:

      technically it contains lead between 40 and 90 ppm. If it had less than 40 it wouldn’t need the Illinois warning label, and if it had more than 90 it wouldn’t be sold because of a federal violation.

    • veritybrown says:

      This! Some of these OMG-there’s-lead-in-it-! laws have gotten really insane. While it’s true that some children do suffer serious effects from lead poisoning (frequently as a result of noshing on old lead paint chips! where are *those* parents, I wonder?), if lead were such a panic-worthy threat to all of humanity, the human race would never have survived the thousands of years when lead (and other toxins) were commonly used in things that people were around all the time.

      Bottom line: If the parent is THAT worried about it, they should just return it for a refund. That’s why the item has this TAG on it–so parents can DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES (what a novel idea!).

  10. AT203 says:

    Babies R Us doesn’t care if they sell lead laced products to toddlers, as long as they meet the Federal standards for lead. (Standards almost certainly watered down by corporate lobbyists.) What shitheads.

    • XianZhuXuande says:

      Relax, and read some more. Less than 90 ppm (parts per *million*) isn’t going to be a threat to baby. If baby decides to consume the bear, baby is more worried about a choking hazard.

      • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

        And in reality, stuff over 90 probably isn’t going to be that bad either – they set these limits artificially low to account for genetic predispositions, aggravating factors, etc.

        There’s likely NOTHING going on here except some state senator latched on to a sensational news story and did something meaningless For The Children. You could serve this entire teddy bear to your kid in a souffle and nothing would happen (except a dry mouth, I guess.)

  11. Azuaron says:

    Alright guys, it exceeds federal standards of 90 ppm. That “ppm” means “parts per million.” So it has less than 90 parts per million. You’d have to eat a lot of bears for this to be a problem.

    • mszabo says:

      Actually it may seem like a lot of bears but then again it doesn’t take a lot of lead to get you sick. I believe it is 25uG/dL which in a 25Lb child (=1 liter of blood) is 250uGs of lead. Lead is significantly denser than most other things Pb=207 compared to water of 18. So 250uGs in a 25lB child would imply that if there were 1.9ppm of lead in a child he would be sick.

      • Kitamura says:

        I guess the question would be how much of the bear has to be consumed before it’s a problem?

      • tz says:

        So the child would have to ingest 1/20th of the parts of the bear which contained lead, and have it all absorbed. Chewing isn’t swallowing and digesting.

        I wonder if his baby is going to get all the thimerosol (mercury) vaccines his pediatrician recommends…

        Mercury in food is 1ppm which has to be absorbed, but in flu vaccines it is 50ppm, directly into your bloodstream.

        • mszabo says:

          Actually there isn’t enough information in the story to make that determination. You’d have to know the weight of the bear. I’d guess it may still be the whole bear if you didn’t get any lead from anywhere else. My point is just because it says “parts per million” you can’t immediately write it off like Azuaron did. It only takes “parts per million” to kill you. Just because a number is small doesn’t automatically make it meaningless.

          • Osagasu says:

            In this case, it also appears to be the PPM of the surface paints – honestly I don’t see many places where paint could be… maybe the eyes? There’s definitely not a lot of lead there.

            Still, I wouldn’t be buying this bear for my child.

          • Azuaron says:

            Bad math! Shame on you. By your math, a child would have to ingest (and absorb) 21.55 mg of lead. To ingest that much lead (assuming complete absorption, which is a rather large assumption), you’d have to eat 0.53 lbs. of a 90ppm object within enough time that it doesn’t leave your body (it takes a while, but lead won’t stick around forever). The bear probably weighs about that much, so, assuming the entire bear is 90ppm of lead, the child would have to eat the whole bear. Since the lead’s just in the surface paints (probably just the eyes), the child would have to eat a whole lot of bear eyes.

  12. daveinva says:

    Warning: do not taunt Happy Fun Bear.

  13. roguemarvel says:

    Many types of candy and lipstick have lead in them. Its how much that really matters. I really wouldn’t worry about 40 parts per million.

  14. StuffThingsObjects says:

    I couldn’t bear giving that to my child. People need to paws and think about this; the thing has poison on it, it cub harm your child!

    • 24NascarDude says:

      In response to StuffThingsObjects:

      At first, the grammar Nazi in me wanted to correct what I thought were your improper usage of certain words. Then, I read it again and saw what you did there…good one.

  15. tz says:

    I wonder if his baby is going to get all the vaccines his pediatrician recommends…

    Mercury in food is 1ppm which has to be absorbed, but in flu vaccines it is 50ppm, directly into your bloodstream. Others vary.

    The same government saying 40 or 90 ppm of lead is dangerous if it is chewed says you can’t send your kid to school unless he has had his dose of heavy metals.

    “The FDA questioned Thimerosal safety several times and decided in 1982 that it was “not safe for ‘over-the-counter’ topical use, because of its potential for cell damage,” The FDA never did anything to question its use in childhood vaccines.”

    Yet Congress gave immunity (legal, not medical) to Big Corporate Pharma for anything that goes bad from a vaccine. It is legally safe.

    I don’t know how toxic low doses of various heavy metals are, but the government is talking out of both sides of their mouth on the issue. If it is toxic, such preservatives should be immediately banned from vaccines and the like. If not, why is everyone worrying about these tiny amounts?

    • mszabo says:

      Well it could be that a high ppm given in a very small quantity of fluid results in a low dose of heavy metal. Or it could be that Thermisol is quickly removed by the body and not as likely to cross the blood brain barrier.

      Or perhaps you could just take off the tin foil hat and quickly check the web and find that they haven’t used Thermisol in any of the required vaccines in a decade now:

    • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

      GAH! Thiomersal/Thimerosal is a chemical compound with mercury in it. Not all compounds containing mercury are created equal. There’s a lot more to it than that.


  16. Sheogorath says:

    Email the CEO back and ask him how much lead he’d be willing to have his child eat.

  17. kccricket says:

    It’s probably something ridiculous, like the paint on the eyeballs.

  18. DeepHurting says:

    It’s funny. When I was a kid I painted and played with LEAD miniatures.
    At least I think I did. I can’t remember…

  19. goldilockz says:

    I have a one year old. This incident doesn’t concern me.

  20. Mcshonky says:

    wouldn’t it have been cheaper to just buy the baby a lead pipe cinch?

  21. tanyaandkarl says:

    I don’t see the problem here.

    Federal standard specifies the maximum safe amount of lead.
    This limit is something greater than zero. Google “background concentrations” of any substance (say, plutonium for example).

    Toy is safe and legal to sell.
    Local jurisdiction wants to make political points, so they set a stricter standard and require a scary label.

    The state doesn’t believe there’s really a problem–or maybe they’re not even qualified to prohibit the sale of the product. Because they don’t.

    Vendor sells toy with the required tag.

    Besides ignorance and fearmongering, what’s the problem?