Admitting Error, Toys R Us Pulls Bibs (NY Times)

Eric Lipton, The New York Times

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Toys "R" Us said today that it was halting sales of all vinyl bibs after laboratory tests showed evidence that some of the bibs were contaminated with lead.

The giant toy chain characterized the move as a "precautionary measure" after tests it commissioned in recent days found two samples of bibs with lead exceeding its standards.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that tests this summer financed by the Center for Environmental Health of Oakland, Calif., found lead as high as three times the level allowed in paint in several styles of the bibs purchased from both Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us stores in California.

A laboratory hired by The New York Times conducted a separate test on the same Toys "R" Us bibs, purchased in Maryland, and found a similar level of contamination.

Those bibs were imported from China for Toys "R" Us by Hamco Baby Products.

The Toys "R" Us statement today said that its bibs were subjected to testing every six months by an independent testing facility. "These bibs, including those manufactured by Hamco, passed these rigorous tests, including as recently as May 2007," it said. "However, the company noted that stores have received shipments since that time and therefore decided to conduct additional re-testing on these items."

Toys "R" Us said testing it commissioned "in recent days" found lead in two bib samples from Hamco. It said the Hamco bibs in its stores were marketed under the Koala Baby, Especially for Baby and Disney Baby labels.

"While not aware of any concerns regarding vinyl bibs made by other manufacturers, the company has temporarily removed all vinyl bibs from its store shelves to help minimize any potential consumer confusion and as an additional precautionary measure so that the company can voluntarily re-test these products," Toys "R" Us said.

It also said bibs previously purchased could be returned to stores for a full refund.

Officials from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates children's products, have said that they would prefer that there be no elevated levels of lead in bibs.

But their own recent tests of baby bibs on the market in the United States found that the lead, when present, was at levels low enough that a child chewing on or rubbing the bib would not get an unhealthy dose.

As a result, the agency urges parents to discard vinyl bibs only if they are ripped or otherwise deteriorated.

"There is a potential risk of lead exposure from babies swallowing pieces of cracked vinyl on used bibs," the agency said in a statement, after being presented with the test results on the Toys "R" Us bibs.

But agency officials have not pushed for a recall of lead-contaminated bibs, including a brand sold earlier this year at Wal-Mart Stores, which the Center for Environmental Health also identified. Wal-Mart removed the bibs from its store shelves nationwide, but in Illinois, where 60,000 of the bibs had been sold, a strict lead law required their recall.

The Wal-Mart bibs were also supplied by Hamco.

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