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Amazon was caught selling toys containing dangerous levels of lead — including maracas with 411 times the legal lead limit

INSIDER logoINSIDER 8/23/2019 Gabby Landsverk
a red box © AP
    • Amazon has been selling thousands of products that violate federal safety regulations, according to the Wall Street Journal, including toys containing dangerous levels of lead.

    • Several of the products for toddlers had at least 400 times the legal limit of lead, and yet some were recommended by the "Amazon's Choice" feature as high quality and good value. These were recalled and removed from shelves last fall.
    • Lead is toxic and children - especially younger than 6 - can suffer behavioral problems and developmental delays from contact with it. 

A breaking investigation from the Wall Street Journal revealed that online retail giant Amazon has been selling thousands of products that have failed federal safety tests, including children's toys containing four to 411 times the safe limit of lead.

Lead is highly toxic and can build up over time through contact with the skin, causing potentially fatal health consequences. It's especially harmful to growing toddlers because it interferes with physical and mental development, causing attention and behavioral problems in addition to physical symptoms. 

Toys, including "Amazon's Choice" products, had many times the legal limit for lead content

Over 2,324 listings for toys were included in the Journal's report as lacking warning labels or otherwise violating federal safety. Of these, four were found to contain unsafe levels of lead after the publication commissioned tests on the products. 

Some of the toys were even labeled as "FDA-approved," according to the Journal, but the FDA doesn't regulate toys.

One woman interviewed by the paper had bought one of these, a toy xylophone, for her 16-month-old toddler that Amazon said was "made of high quality nontoxic material, safe and reliable for little children." A test found it had four times the legal limit of lead.

Amazon initially refused to take the product down from its site after being informed of these results, according to the Journal, but later did, saying it would ask for more documentation from the company it had used to test the product.

Another item, a set of yellow maracas, had 411 times the legal limit for lead, according to documents obtained by the Journal. These were removed from the site after a federal recall last fall.

In a post published since the investigation, Amazon said: "Our proactive measures begin when a seller attempts to open an account. Our new seller account vetting includes a number of verifications and uses proprietary machine learning technology that stops bad actors before they can register or list a single product in our store. All products offered in our stores must comply with applicable laws and regulations, and our own policies. For example, we require toys to be tested to relevant safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission."

Lead poisoning can cause serious illness as well as behavioral and attention problems in children

Lead is toxic and can be absorbed through the skin. It's dangerous because it can build up over time through prolonged contact, most commonly through lead paint. It can be fatal in high amounts.

Children under 6 years old are most vulnerable, according to the Mayo Clinic, because the substance can cause developmental delays in a growing child's body and brain. This can lead to learning difficulties, irritability, and attention problems, as well as physical symptoms like weight loss, fatigue, vomiting, seizures, and hearing loss.

You can take precautions to protect yourself and your family from lead by washing toys, as well as children's hands after playing with them, regularly with soap and water. A healthy diet, high in calcium, vitamin C, and iron may also help prevent lead absorption, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Gallery: These popular toys and games could be hazardous to your children's health (Good Housekeeping)



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