Greenpeace press release October 9, 1997.


Original press release and answers of CPSC, TMA and PVC industry

Original Greenpeace press release

Washington, D.C., October 9, 1997 -- A Greenpeace report released today revealed that hazardous levels of lead and cadmium are found in vinyl plastic children's products. The study was prompted by the discovery of hazardous lead levels in vinyl mini-blinds and associated lead poisoning of children in 1996.

Mainstream vinyl products were purchased for testing at national chain stores including Kmart, Wal-Mart, Target, and Toys R Us. Many items featured popular children's characters like Barbie, Mickey Mouse, and Tweety. Lead-containing vinyl children's products were found in Boston, Boulder (CO), Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Portland (OR), San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Montreal, Canada. In every case in which it was tested, all of the lead-containing products also contained varying levels of cadmium, a known carcinogen and kidney toxin that is even more toxic than lead.

An independent laboratory analysis demonstrated that products released toxic metal dust to their surfaces. Lead- or cadmium-contaminated dust is especially hazardous since it can enter the body by licking, chewing, inhalation, and hand-to-mouth behavior.

The current report comes only weeks after Greenpeace released an analysis of soft vinyl toys, showing that toxic chemicals, called phthalates, represented 10-40 percent of the weight of the toys. Government studies have shown that these PVC softeners can leach out when toys are chewed by small children.

"Children should be able to play with Barbie, Tweety, and Mickey Mouse without being poisoned by vinyl," said Joseph Di Gangi, PhD, Greenpeace Toxics campaigner.

Greenpeace advises parents to return all vinyl products to stores and calls upon retailers to remove all vinyl items from the market.

Scientific reviewers of the Greenpeace report included: Howard Hu, Harvard School of Public Health; Philip Landrigan, Mount Sinai School of Medicine; and Janet Phoenix, National Safety Council.

The entire Greenpeace report, "Lead and Cadmium in Vinyl Children's Products" is available online.

From a press release of Reuters on the same day:

The report said testing of 131 vinyl products -- including a variety of toys, backpacks and raincoats -- showed 28 products contained more than 100 parts per million of lead, a toxin to the nervous system that affects children's mental development. The lead-containing products also had varying levels of cadmium, a carcinogen, Greenpeace said.

Greenpeace said 18 percent of the products exceeded the maximum lead limit in vinyl recommended by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC).

In the same press release of Reuters, the CPSC reacted already:
But the CPSC said Greenpeace was misapplying that standard, and said its tests found the products were not dangerous.

"They were applying recommendations we used for mini-blinds to toys, which is not a correct application", CPSC spokeswoman Kathleen Begala said. She said mini-blinds deteriorate from exposure to heat and sun, and it was incorrect to apply the same protocol to a backpack or raincoat.

The CPSC said its study showed just trace levels or no lead in seven of the 11 vinyl products that Greenpeace said were dangerous. It said its analysis of four other products showed two were not hazardous because exposure was not likely, and testing of the other two was incomplete.

Of the 11 products, the CPSC said eight had just trace levels or no cadmium and one was not hazardous because exposure was not likely. Testing on two of the products was incomplete, the commission said.

Greenpeace dismissed the CPSC findings as incomplete, and a "false reassurance to parents that vinyl products containing lead and cadmium are not widespread."

Reaction of the toy manufacturers of America (TMA):

Industry Policy on Lead in Toys
International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI)
08 October 97

More than 30 years ago, when lead in toys was first identified as toxic, it was the Toy Industry which took the lead to protect children. The Toy Manufacturers of America (TMA) in cooperation with the American Academy of Pediatrics jointly developed the first toy safety standard limiting lead in paint and similar surface coatings, manufacturers around the world have limited the use of lead in toys ever since.

The voluntary standard established in the United States under ASTM F-963 and the European standard under EN-71 for soluble lead in toys (lead which may migrate from the toy and be ingested by the child) is 90 parts-per-million. At that level, any intentional use of lead in paints or other surface coatings containing lead would immediately put the toy over the permitted limit.

Under federal law, The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) enforces a standard for total lead of 600 ppm. Recently, the CPSC refused to lower the lead limit in paint and other similar surface coating materials to 100 ppm after finding that most paints sold in the United States were already at or below that level and therefore these materials did not present an unreasonable risk of injury warranting further government regulation.

The Global Toy Safety Standard now being drafted by the International Standardization Organization (ISO-TCI 181) adopts the standards in force in the United States and in Europe.

Finally, the US Customs Service and the Consumer Product Safety Commission initiated an inspection project dubbed "Operation Toyland." Trained Customs and CSPC specialists carry out inspections to make sure that all toys brought into the United States conform to CPSC regulations with special focus on lead in paints.

No one disputes the toxic effects of lead. It is poison. It is unthinkable that toy manufacturers, the very people whose mission in life is to provide safe playthings for children, would not be in the forefront of efforts to see that those children come to no harm. Rest assured. They are.

World Chlorine and Vinyl industries statement on PVC toys:

Statement agreed to by representatives of the World Chlorine and Vinyl industries meeting in Osaka, Japan:

Vinyls toys have been used safely for more than 50 years by children all around the world. Toys made from all materials, including vinyls (PVC), have to meet stringent health and safety requirements.
Toys which are not able to meet the appropriate standards [such as those set by ASTM F-963 in the US or the European standard under EN-71] should be withdrawn from the market, no matter what material they are made from, vinyl included.
Parents should be reassured that vinyl toys which meet the appropriate standards are safe. The vinyls industry always puts safety first and we will continue to do that.



Greenpeace goes farther and farther to discredit a product by scaring parents for the safety of their children. To reach their target, the end of chlorine chemistry, all means are good.
To makes things clear: PVC for toys, foodstuff packaging and medical purposes is normally made with calcium and zinc as stabilisers. No lead or cadmium is intentionally added to PVC for this purposes.
As clearly indicated by the Greenpeace report, app. 80% of all toys, tested for them, had no detectable levels of lead or cadmium. Why then Greenpeace insists that ALL PVC toys should be withdrawn from the market?
If any PVC product, used by children really would leak too much lead or cadmium, it should immediately be withdrawn from the market. But what Greenpeace is doing here has nothing to do with care for children, it is pure environmental racism...


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Created: October 11, 1997.
Last update: May 3, 1998.

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