A big ruckus has broken out over a small, cute little mechanical hamster. One of the hot toys for this season, the Zhu Zhu Hamster made by Cepia, LLC, was accused recently by a consumer watchdog group of containing too much of a heavy metal called antimony. Antimony is a material used to make metal alloys and has been linked to heart and lung problems. Rushing to reassure consumers, the Consumer Products Safety commission (CPSC) announced on December 8th that there was to be no Zhu Zhu recall, and the furry little beast was safe after all. But not before the negative publicity caused a big, hairy mess for the company.
As parents are unhappily aware, toy recalls have become common place in the past few years. In the case of the Zhu Zhu hamster, a consumer group called GoodGuide, who's purpose is to help consumers find "safe, healthy, and green products that are better for you and the planet," made a small goof when they tested one hamster, "Mr. Squiggles" to be specific, for levels of antimony.
According to MedicineNet.com, the Zhu Zhu safety testing can be explained like this: GoodGuide tests for contaminants using a handheld device called an X-ray fluorescence gun. The test can detect antimony, but cannot accurately measure toxic levels of the metal. That requires a different test, called a solubility test, which is the test used by the CPSC. Their soluble method of testing found the toy to be within the 60 parts per million held to be safe by government standards.
In reaction to the hamster fluff, CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said, "The Consumer Product Safety Commission confirmed today that the popular Zhu Zhu toy is not out of compliance with the antimony or other heavy-metal limits of the new U.S. mandatory toy standard."
Good Guide provided a backhanded apology by "clarifying" their testing methods. In a posting on the website, the group differentiated between the federal testing method and their own. They did not comment on which method was more accurate, only that they lead to different results.
So, the hamsters are keepers after all. The Los Angeles Times reports parents feel better about Zhu Zhu safety. Zhu Zhu owners such as Alicen Kovacic, 34, said they felt reassured. The paralegal from La Crescenta, who scored a Mr. Squiggles hamster after waiting for nearly six hours at a Toys R Us, had planned to take the toy back to the store before learning that it was safe. "I definitely feel relieved and I'm glad that it was looked into really quickly," Kovacic said. " I don't think I'm going to return it now."