How much lead is in the doggie in the window?

Came across an interesting consumer product issue.  Here’s a news report about a grandmother complaining that a product she wanted to purchase had the following warning on its: “Warning: Contains lead.  May be harmful if eaten or chewed.  May generate dust containing lead.

Why did the manufacturer place that warning on a label?  Most likely, it was a decision made to ensure that the product would meet the varying lead level and labeling requirements among our 50 states.  For instance, Illinois has its own Lead Poisoning Prevention Act.  Here is it is, in part, and look for the very familiar warning at the bottom:

Children's products. Effective January 1, 2010, no person, firm, or corporation shall sell, have, offer for sale, or transfer the items listed in this Section that contain a total lead content in any component part of the item that is more than 0.004% (40 parts per million) but less than 0.06% (600 parts per million) by total weight or a lower standard for lead content as may be established by federal or State law or regulation unless that item bears a warning statement that indicates that at least one component part of the item contains lead. The warning statement for items covered under this subsection (b) shall contain at least the following: "WARNING: CONTAINS LEAD. MAY BE HARMFUL IF EATEN OR CHEWED. MAY GENERATE DUST CONTAINING LEAD."

So, it would appear the the manufacturer was attempting to navigate the straits between the federal and state testing and labeling requirements for lead in children’s toys.

The news station took the offending plush dog toy to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) where it took samples from its ears, arms, feet and belly.  The little doggie passed all the federal tests…indeed, “if the dog’s fur contains lead, our test found it’s so minuscule it’s below reportable levels.”

And, for all of this, the news report has the retailer apologizing for selling the plush toy, and for selling others where the warning was covered up with adhesive label to correct the “mislabeling.”

Of course,  the final word goes to the grandmother.  “Things should be lead-free, period.”  And, they can be in her home, if she’d like.  The next time she picks up a toy that says “contains lead” and that meets federal but not state requirements, she can leave the little doggie on the shelf.  After all, warnings should help us make decisions, not news.