Still for sale: Bibs with lead

Tests by two firms show elevated lead levels in bibs sold at Toys 'R' Us, but retailer, Feds have not recalled item.

NEW YORK ( -- Certain vinyl baby bibs sold at Toys "R" Us stores appear to be contaminated with lead, but this latest Chinese-made product to raise safety concerns is not being recalled.

Tests conducted on the bibs for the public interest group Center for Environmental Health (CEH) as well as tests conducted separately by the New York Times showed lead as high as three times the level allowed in paint in the bibs.

CEH said it tested these two bibs from a Toy R Us store and found them to be contaminated with lead.
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The CEH said Wednesday that it purchased the Vinyl bibs from Toys R Us and Babies R Us stores, including a bib with Disney's (Charts, Fortune 500) "Winnie the Pooh" characters and store brand bibs marketed as "Koala Baby" and "Especially for Baby" bibs.

The group said in a statement that the bibs tested for lead levels that are between three and four times the legal limit for lead in paint.

CEH also found a "Kidcosmic" brand vinyl bib sold in a Lisa Kline store with similarly high lead levels.

In May, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a consumer safety alert - but not a recall - of baby bibs with cracked or peeling vinyl surfaces. The agency warned of a potential risk of lead exposure to infants from those products.

However, the agency concluded that its risk assessment found hat none of the bibs that were tested at CPSC's laboratory would pose a risk of substantial illness to children from mouthing

The CPSC recommended that parents discard bibs that were in poor condition to avoid any potential exposure to lead from swallowed vinyl.

"Lead in vinyl baby bibs poses a reckless, unnecessary hazard to children at the most vulnerable age," Caroline Cox, research director at CEH said in a statement.

"These companies have known for months that vinyl bibs could be a threat to children, yet they continued to put their profits ahead of children's health. We expect these bibs to be removed from store shelves immediately," she said.

The CEH said it found Wal-Mart (Charts, Fortune 500) selling vinyl baby bibs tainted with lead in May and asked the retailer to stop the sale of the bibs nationwide.

Regarding the CPSC's safety alert issued in May, the CEH said that the Safety Commission's report was "inaccurate and misleading."

"In fact, all of the tests on the Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Disney and Lisa Kline bibs were on new bibs," the group said.

"CPSC has a chance to step up to the plate and order a national recall to protect children, but the recent past has shown that the agency is more concerned with protecting companies that make and sell poisonous products," Charlie Pizarro, associate director of CEH, said in a statement.

Separately, the Times reported Wednesday that Toys "R" Us said that its own independent lab test on the bibs conducted as recently as May found them to be in compliance with safety standards for lead levels.

Company spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh told the paper the bibs would be retested and held to standards tougher than federal safety rules.

"Our uncompromising commitment to safety has been, and continues to be, our highest priority," she said in a written statement.

The retailer is owned by private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Bain Capital and real estate investment trust Vornado Realty Trust (Charts). The bibs were imported from China by Hamco Baby Products, a unit of Crown Crafts (Charts).

The paper reports that Hamco earlier this year imported bibs from China for Wal-Mart Stores (Charts, Fortune 500), but the retailer removed the bibs from its store shelves nationwide due to lead concerns. In Illinois, a strict lead law required their recall, the paper reported.

Chinese products have raised new safety concerns in recent months, prompting a series of recalls. Mattel (Charts, Fortune 500) on Tuesday recalled more than 9 million toys made in China that had been sold in the United States, the second major recall of Chinese toys by the toymaker.

There have also been recalls in recent months of Chinese-produced toothpaste, seafood, animal feed and tires for light trucks, all due to concerns about the safety of the products.

Officials from the Consumer Product Safety Commission told the paper that they would prefer that there be no elevated levels of lead in bibs, but that its own test results indicate that lead, when present, was at levels low enough that a child chewing on or rubbing the bib would not get an unhealthy dose.

The agency said the Toys "R" Us bibs pose a risk 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 given to the paper, after being presented with the test results on the Toys "R" Us bibs.

The lack of a recall prompted criticism by some lead safety advocates.

"All lead is bad lead," Patrick MacRoy, director of the Chicago lead poisoning prevention program, told the Times. "Why should we allow any lead to be in there?"  Top of page