Is Mr. Squiggles the toy hamster on your child's holiday wish list this year? Then you may have been concerned by the reports that came out over the weekend about the poor safety ratings that Mr. Squiggles recently received from The Good Guide, a consumer group that claims to "find safe, healthy and green products." Normally, I would lend my full support to an organization that's highlighting toxicity in children's toys,  but this time, I think The Good Guide got it wrong.

The Good Guide released a press release over the weekend claiming that Mr. Squiggles Pets hamsters, made by Zhu Zhu toys are unsafe after finding antimony, which can cause health problems, on the hair and nose of one of the toy hamsters.  The group assigned the toy, aimed at 3- to 10-year-olds, a rating of 5.2 on a 10-point scale.

Zhu Zhu Pets, which retail for about $10, have become this season's toy craze, following in the footsteps of Tickle Me Elmo and Cabbage Patch Kids. The items fetch $40 or more on resale Web sites like eBay and Craigslist. This is why they wound up on The Good Guide's radar for testing.

But the toymaker, St. Louis-based Cepia LLC, insisted in a statement that its product is safe and has passed rigorous testing. The company said it was contacting The Good Guide to share its testing data and determine how the report was founded.  

Antimony was measured at 93 parts per million in the hamster's fur and at 106 parts per million in its nose. The Good Guide claims that both readings exceed the allowable level of 60 parts per million. But according to The Smart Mama a green mom who wields her own toxicity testing equipment, the Good Guide's results are just plain wrong. According to Jennifer Taggart, aka The Smart Mama, "the current U.S. standard is 60 ppm soluble antimony in paints and surface coatings used on children’s toys, not total antimony. And that is a big difference. BIG difference."  

The Good Guide's antimony was detected using XRF technology. And as Taggart has her own Niton XRF analyzer, she knows what it can do and what it can't do. According to Taggart, "as much as I love my XRF analyzer, it just can’t tell you soluble. At all. It only tells you total – total lead, total antimony, total mercury, etc. So the Good Guide is comparing apples and oranges, and raising a big stink. And that is wrong."

As I mentioned above, I am all for testing toys for safety and shouting it out when a danger is found. But let's face it, most Americans (myself included) don't understand the chemistry behind a lot of these safety standards. So if a company like the Good Guide wants to do some real good in their toy testing, they need to make sure they do a thorough and accurate job of detecting and analyzing their results.  

What do you think? Do you agree with The Good Guide's results or do you think they blew the whistle too soon?

Photo: Zhu Zhu Pet Hamsters

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