Lab tests find lead and other toxins in pet toys sold at Wal-Mart

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Two Chinese-made pet toys sold in Wal-Mart stores contain high levels of lead, chromium and cadmium, according to a forensic toxicologist whose lab tested the products for ConsumerAffairs.com.

Two vets, however, said the levels of toxic metals found in toys do not pose a health risk to dogs or cats. It is not clear whether the toys pose a danger to children and the adults who handle them.

ConsumerAffairs.com hired ExperTox Analytical Laboratory in Texas to test four imported pet toys – two for dogs and two for cats – for heavy metals and other toxins.

One of the dog toys – a latex one that looks like a green monster – tested positive for what the lab toxicologist said were high levels of lead and chromium, a carcinogen.

A fabric catnip toy also tested positive for a huge amount of cadmium, a poisonous metal, the lab said.

ExperTox also analyzed two other pet toys made in China, a fabric hedgehog for dogs and a plastic dumbbell toy for cats. The lab detected cadmium in these toys, but said the levels roughly matched the amount found in a cigarette and were not considered significant.

ConsumerAffairs.com purchased all four pet toys earlier this month at a Wal-Mart store in Kansas City, Missouri. All of the toys had a tag attached that said Marketed through Wal-Mart stores and Made in China.

“Potentially toxic”

Forensic toxicologist Dr Ernest Lykissa, Ph.D., director of the ExperToxs lab, described the levels of heavy metals in green monster and catnip toys as potentially toxic and said Wal-Mart should withdraw the products from the market.

Or put a warning label on them that says if you put this (toy) in your mouth you will be poisoned, he said. There is nothing good about the agents (in these toys) that I bring to you.

Lykissa said that lead goes to the brain and causes learning disabilities in children. It is also implicated in high cases of heart attacks. It is a very heavy metal.

Chromium, he said, is a carcinogen. It can cause bladder and kidney cancer, and if inhaled, cause lung cancer. Chromium is no good. And cadmium is a horrible thing to get into the body. It wreaks havoc in the joints, kidneys and lungs.

ExperToxs tests on the green monster toy detected what Lykissa said were high levels of lead – 907.4 micrograms per kilogram.

It’s almost one part per million. With that kind of focus, if a dog chews or licks it, it gets a good source of lead.

The green monster toy also had what Lykissa considered high levels of chromium – 334.9 micrograms per kilogram.

With that kind of chrome in there, you have what can be an extremely poisonous toy if they (animals) put it in their mouths. And dogs put things in their mouths. If a dog puts this in his mouth, he has a great chance of contracting a type of metal toxicity that can shorten his life.

What is worse?

Which heavy metal – chromium or lead – poses a greater threat to dogs?

The toxic burden is a toxic burden, Lykissa said. You increase the burden on the animal by having them in there. A dog will receive a healthy dose of chromium and lead from this toy.

The lab also detected other toxic metals in the green monster toy.

There’s cadmium, arsenic, and mercury in there, Lykissa says. It is not a clean toy. It’s poisonous. Bet on it.

ExperToxs tests on the catnip toy detected cadmium levels of 236 micrograms per kilogram.

This one worries me, Lykissa said. It is a large number. That’s a good dose of cadmium.

There’s another reason Lykissa is worried about heavy metals in these chew toys.

These (toxic) materials loosely loosened from the toys, such as with licking the tongue of a dog or cat, he said. They were easily freed from these toys. We didn’t take a hammer and hammer it on. I just did what a dog or a cat would do by licking it. This is why it is so serious.

Lykissa said toxicologists cut a small piece from each of the toys, weighed the samples and put them in acidic water.

We left the samples for a while and then heated them to body temperature, he said. Then we put them in a machine (called ICP-MS – or inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry), and that machine told us it was lead and it was chromium. . .

We haven’t dissolved the toys, he added. These materials were leaking from the toys. Anything that has escaped the toys is what I bring back to you. The material came right away. Someone’s saliva or sweat in their hands would freely pick up these materials. And that’s absorbing it. If you ate the materials, like a dog could, it would be worse.

Lykissa said he wasn’t surprised to find these levels of toxic materials in toys.

I knew where they came from in China. And everything from there seems to be made using very old manufacturing processes that are ripe for this type of problem. Unfortunately, it is becoming a routine in my business to see this type of results (on products made in China).

But we better worry, he said of the lab results. Some of the toys you had were clean, like the hedgehog and the plastic dumbbell. They had small amounts of cadmium. But then you look at this catnip toy and it has 236 (micrograms per kilogram) of cadmium in it. This is something someone should be worried about.

In my business, if you sit there and let the dogs and cats play with a toy whose heavy metals are released freely – and put it in their mouths, it becomes a problem.

Vets disagree

But vets who reviewed the ExperToxs results disagree.

I don’t see any of those numbers being a toxicity issue for dogs or cats, said Dr. Mike Murphy of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota. Latex paint can contain one-half to one percent lead, or 10,000 parts per million. What he (Dr Lykissa) is saying is that part per million is a risk. But latex paint is 10,000 times higher than that and we do not recognize latex paint as a toxicity hazard to dogs and cats.

I don’t agree with the interpretation that is being given (by Lykissa), added Dr Murphy, who holds a doctorate. in toxicology. I consider these numbers to be extremely low and not of toxicological concern to pet owners.

Dr Fred Oehme of Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine said the risks to dogs and cats from these toys depend on how much heavy metals their bodies absorb.

Could they be harmful? The poisoning depends on how much is absorbed into their system. Most animals need 30 parts per million of their total daily food before you have a problem with lead. Cadmium is more than that.

Potential danger

Should pet owners be wary of these toys?

I think they are a potential danger, just like a car can be a potential danger, said Dr Oehme, professor of toxicology, pathobiology, medicine and physiology. The danger in this case involves how the compound is used and its availability.

I’m more concerned about lead than the other two (heavy metals), he added. Lead accumulates and if it enters the body it accumulates.

ConsumerAffairs.com contacted Wal-Mart about the ExperToxs findings, but the company did not respond.

We also shared the lab results with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A spokeswoman said the FDA does not regulate pet toys and is not aware of any government agency with regulatory authority over these products.

What about the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)?

While not in the fine print, the CPSC will regulate pet toys because it assumes those toys would come into contact with children, according to a spokesperson for the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association (APPMA).

We shared the ExperToxs test results with APPMA, a nonprofit business group that represents more than 900 manufacturers of pet products. The group’s chairman, however, was on a trip last week and was not available for comment.

We also contacted the CPSC, but the agency did not respond to our request.

Unhappy consumers

Meanwhile, pet owner Doris B. told us she was horrified by the ExperTox results even though she didn’t have a dog or cat.

Her pet is a ferret.

These lab results are very worrying, the Columbus, Ga. Woman said. If I had a dog or a cat, I would be crazy like HELL.

Doris first contacted us in late August with concerns about possible toxins in pet toys.

There is a lot of public outcry (and rightly so) against the Menu Foods and Mattel toy recalls, she told us. The pet toy industry is a neglected area. It seems that every cat toy, dog toy, etc. be made in China. Has anyone tested these things to see if they are safe for our pets to chew on?

We did it about two weeks later. And the ExperToxs test results did not surprise Doris.

I had a furtive suspicion that this was the way it was going to be, she said. We had these pet food recalls and the ingredients (tainted with melamine) were from China. And the children’s toys that were recalled were also made in China.

But pet owners shouldn’t be the only ones alarmed by ExperTox’s findings, Doris said. Parents should also be concerned.

There are kids playing with their pets and pet toys, she said, and sometimes little kids put their pet toys in their mouths.

Someone should care enough to do something about it.


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