Disney Ignoring Lead Dangers at Disneyland – Groups Urge Court to Take Immediate Action to Protect Children

Anaheim, CA-California environmental, health and consumer protection organizations warned parents outside Disneyland of dozens of items in the theme parks where children are being exposed to high levels of lead, in excess of California safety standards. At one attraction, lead is accessible to children at a level that is 2600 times higher than the state safety standard.

The Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation notified Disney of the lead exposures to children more than nine months ago, yet the company has refused to take any action to warn parents or protect children. Today, Mateel filed suit in Orange County Superior Court requesting an immediate injunction to force Disney to either abate the lead hazards or provide parents with warnings about the lead-tainted items so they can take appropriate steps to protect their children.

“We are asking the court to force Disney to take steps they should have taken when we first told them that children at Disneyland are in danger of illegal lead exposures,” said William Verick, President of Mateel. “It won’t be easy for children to ‘let the memories begin’ if they suffer from learning disorders, brain damage, hearing problems or any of the other serious health hazards associated with lead poisoning.”

Last June, Mateel and the Ecological Rights Foundation (ERF) began testing items in Disneyland for lead. Tests of wipe samples by an independent lab found that children can be exposed to lead above California standards from several lead-tainted brass railings, brass drinking water fountains, brass statues and figurines that children play with at several attractions, and in leaded glass at restaurants, among other places.

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

In all, the groups’ testing found more than three dozen items in Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure parks with lead exposure threats, including:

  • A leaded brass “Sword in the Stone” attraction that children are encouraged to pull on for several minutes while a park photographer poses them for picture taking;
  • A leaded brass hand railing at an ice cream shop that children handle and run their hands along for several minutes while waiting in long lines for ice cream cones and other hand-held foods;
  • A leaded brass doorknob and other brass items that children are encouraged to handle while playing at Mickey’s House and Minnie’s House.
  • On several brass chains and line dividers that children handle and play with while waiting in often long lines for rides and attractions.

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH), which has previously successfully taken legal action to eliminate lead threats from jewelry sold at Disneyland and many Disney-licensed products sold at major retailers, joined Mateel and ERF outside Disneyland today in a news briefing to warn parents and urge them to help pressure Disney into action.

“It’s disappointing that a $38 billion company like Disney can’t be bothered to clean up their parks so they’re safe for children,” said Caroline Cox, Research Director of CEH.   “We’re telling our supporters to send a message to Disney today: there is no place for lead poisoning at the world’s happiest place.”

After Disney failed to act in response to the initial notice of the lead hazards, Mateel filed suit against the company in April under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (also known as Proposition 65).

“Disney has had many opportunities to do the right thing, but they’ve chosen to ignore this serious threat to their most fragile customers,” said Fred Evenson, Director of ERF. “You can’t Mickey Mouse around with a stunningly toxic chemical like lead. It’s time to end these lead dangers at Disneyland.”

See the group’s report, “Danger at Disneyland: Lead Hazards at the World’s Happiest Place.

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