SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Some vinyl baby bibs made in China and sold at Toys R Us stores contain lead levels well above federal safety limits for lead in paint, a California environmental group said yesterday.
A bib with "Winnie the Pooh" characters and store-brand bibs sold under the Koala Baby and Especially for Baby labels all tested positive for lead in concentrations three to four times what the Environmental Protection Agency allows in paint, according to the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland.
The group bought the four bibs at San Francisco Bay-area Toys R Us and Babies R Us stores and contracted with a private lab that specializes in product safety to perform the tests.
"There's plenty of ways to make bibs without lead," said Caroline Cox, the center's research director. "I don't think we should be exposing children to this toxic metal unnecessarily."
Lead most commonly occurs in vinyl products as a stabilizer or a pigment. It can also occur unintentionally when recycled vinyl used for other purposes becomes part of a new product.
The Center for Environmental Health said that it had notified Toys R Us, the country's second-largest toy seller, that it intended to sue if the retailer failed to take the bibs off store shelves in California, a state with especially strict rules about lead exposure.
A Toys R Us spokeswoman said tests performed in May by a lab contracted by the company found that the bibs met not just federal standards but California's more stringent limits on lead content. But more bibs were being pulled from the shelves yesterday for further testing, spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh said.
"If we find that they do not meet our testing standards, we will pull them from the shelves," Ms. Waugh said.
Consumer anxiety over Chinese goods has swirled in recent months with the discovery of contaminated pet food, toothpaste, seafood and toys made in the country. Worries intensified Tuesday after Mattel Inc. recalled millions more toys made in the country because of lead paint — the company's second such recall in two weeks.
Though Toys R Us regularly tests the products it sells for lead, Ms. Waugh said, the May tests were prompted by Wal-Mart's decision that month to recall lead-tainted vinyl bibs from its stores nationwide. Wal-Mart's recall came after another lawsuit brought by the Center for Environmental Health.