Zhu Zhu Pets & beyond — which toys are really safe?

This week the consumer watchdog group GoodGuide issued a warning against the popular Zhu Zhu Pets toys, saying they contained high levels of dangerous heavy metals. The company that makes the Zhu Zhu Pets robotic hamsters quickly issued a statement saying that GoodGuide’s testing methodology was different from what the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) required for toys being sold in the United States. The CPSC concurred, noting that their tests ensure toys do not leach, leak, or transfer dangerous substances while a child is playing with it. The GoodGuide warning was based on tests to determine what substances the toys contained, and the group acknowledged that by the CPSC standard, the Zhu Zhu Pet toy is safe.

So what does all of this mean? Can we trust the CPSC testing and standards? Can a toy be safe if it contains heavy metals, even if it doesn’t leak or leach them?

Sure. A toy that contains heavy metals can be safe to play with, in the same way our computers, printers, and other electronic devices are safe for us to use. Almost any modern electronic device now will have some dangerous substances associated with it — it’s the reason we’re not supposed to throw our computers and peripherals into landfills. We still operate them day-to-day without adverse affects. However, because harmful substances are contained within most electronic toys, we should be vigilant about monitoring their wear & tear. Electronic toys that are broken, badly scratched, dropped, chewed (by the family pet, perhaps), or otherwise damaged should be discarded.

Even with the safety of the Zhu Zhu Pets and other electronic toys confirmed, consider limiting or eliminating the number of electronic toys your child plays with in order to avoid the issue completely. Children have amazing imaginations and can create rolling hamsters out of stationery boxes, cars out of shoeboxes, and forts out of the living room furniture. Especially in this era of questionable toy safety and season of tight budgets, allowing our children to exercise their creativity might be the best gift of all.

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