An Opening Day Warning for Parents: High Lead Levels in Little League Baseball Belts

Oakland, CA-Independent testing commissioned by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has found high levels of lead in some children’s Little League baseball uniforms belts, including a Rawlings belt sold at Wal-Mart, and belts from Sports Authority and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Another belt was found with more than 280 times more lead than the federal safety standards set for lead in children’s products.

CEH has sent legal notices that the belts violate California consumer protection law to the belt retailers and to the state. “Parents outfitting their children for Little League should know that some uniform belts may pose a lead hazard,” said Caroline Cox, Research Director at CEH. “There is no crying in baseball, and there shouldn’t be any lead either.”

CEH’s legal notices identify four belts with lead levels far in excess of the federal standard. The surface material on the lead-taintedbelts range from more than 2.8% to nearly 8.5% lead. CEH is concerned that children can be exposed to lead in excess of California safety standards through hand-to-mouth contact when they put belts on and off and any time they touch the belts. The group’s testing is ongoing; concerned parents may contact CEH about free lead screening.

Lead is a neurotoxin that can cause learning disorders, brain and nerve damage, hearing problems, stunted growth, and digestive problems. Scientists are increasingly convinced that there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for young children.

Last month, CEH reached legal settlements with two major producers of children’s bounce houses, who agreed to ban all but trace levels of lead in their vinyl products. More than 100 retailers or producers of women’s accessories, including purses and belts, have also signed legal agreements with CEH limiting lead in their products to trace levels.

CEH has a fourteen-year track record of protecting communities from the health impacts of toxic pollution and has previously uncovered lead and other toxic health threats to children from wood playground structures, toys, vinyl baby bibs and lunchboxes, imported candies, children’s jewelry, children’s medicines, and many other products. CEH also works withmajor industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices. Last year the San Francisco Business Times bestowed its annual “Green Champion” award to CEH for its work to improve health and the environment in the Bay Area and beyond.

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