Lead in Valentines Day Gifts: Good News and Bad News

Oakland, CA-There’s good and bad news for Valentine’s Day shoppers looking for the safest products this year. The bad news is that Valentine’s Day “Message Bears” from Target contain high levels of lead, in violation of federal law. The California Attorney General has notified Target, requesting that the company recall the product immediately and accept customers’ returns of the product with or without receipts.

The good news is that most Valentine’s Day products tested this year by the Center for Environmental Health were without lead problems. The Center also found one Valentine’s Day product that had high lead levels last year has now been reformulated. A singing dog “soft plush animal” purchased from Rite Aid last year was made with plastic that contained high levels of lead, but this year’s model is made with cloth and conforms to federal lead laws.

The lead-tainted Target teddy bears are “carrying” inflated vinyl Valentine’s Day love messages (eg, “I love
U”) that independent tests show contain more than eight times the federal limit for products for children 12 and under. A tag on the bears says “not for children 3 and under.”

“Parents need to know that lead-tainted vinyl has no place on products for their kids,” said Caroline Cox, Research Director for CEH. “We applaud the Attorney General for sending Target a Valentine’s Day message the company won’t forget.”

Vinyl is often called a “poison plastic” as it creates toxic hazards when it is produced, used and disposed of. CEH has previously found high lead levels in vinyl baby bibs, lunchboxes, rain ponchos and other children's products, and has forced producers to reformulate their products to eliminate these lead threats to children.

Last month, CEH announced its first legal settlement in its work to end lead threats from purses sold at major retailers. Last week, the nonprofit initiated legal action to end health threats from high levels of cadmium found in jewelry for children and adults.

CEH has a ten-year track record of protecting consumers from hidden health hazards and protecting communities from health hazards related to toxic pollution. CEH also works with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices.