High Levels of Lead Found in Fidget Spinners

Media Contacts
Dev Gowda

Kara Cook-Schultz

Lab results indicate unhealthy amounts of lead in popular toys available nationwide

U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Denver, CO — U.S. PIRG Education Fund found fidget spinners with high levels of lead for sale at Target stores across the country. Parents and consumers need to know about these lead-laden toys, especially because we alerted Target and the toy’s distributor, Bulls i Toy, to our findings, but they refused to address the problem. The toxic fidget spinners are still available both in toy aisles at Target stores and on its website. Incredibly, Target and Bulls i Toy defend their inaction by pointing to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) declaration that fidget spinners are NOT technically “children’s products” subject to legal limits for lead.

“Saying fidget spinners aren’t toys defies common sense, as millions of parents whose kids play with spinners can tell you,” said Kara Cook-Schultz, U.S. PIRG Education Fund toxics director. “The CPSC, Target and Bulls i Toy need to acknowledge the obvious — that all fidget spinners are toys. So, Target needs to immediately stop selling the toys that contain high amounts of lead, and issue a recall for those that they’ve already sold.”

Lab results showed two fidget spinners contained extremely high levels of lead, well over the federal legal limit of 100 parts per million (ppm) for lead in children’s products:

1. Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass:

  • The center circle tested for 33,000 parts per million (ppm) of lead.

2. Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Metal:

  • The center circle tested for 1,300 ppm of lead.

Alarmingly, when U.S. PIRG Education Fund notified the CPSC about the elevated lead levels in the fidget spinners, the CPSC responded in an email that these fidget spinners are general use products, not children’s products. Simply stated, the CPSC will not hold these fidget spinners to federal lead standards applicable to toys. The CPSC’s public position is that it only considers a fidget spinner a toy if it is labeled for 12 or under.

This is an absurd and unsafe conclusion. Our staff found these lead-ridden fidget spinners in the toy aisles at four Targets around the country (Denver, Chicago, Minneapolis and Tampa Bay). The Target.com website even includes a statement that the Fidget Wild Brass spinner is for children ages 6 and up.

“All fidget spinners have play value as children’s toys regardless of age labeling,” added Cook-Schultz. “The buck has to stop with someone. CPSC stands for the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Now is the time for it to stand up for consumers. We can’t sit idly by while children play with these toxic toys — and yes, these are toys.”

U.S. PIRG Education Fund staff reached out to Target, Corp. and Bulls i Toy, L.L.C with our test results. Both companies, along with the CPSC, claim that these fidget spinners are general use products and not children’s products subject to legal limits for lead, because they contain a 14+ label. Therefore, neither company will issue a recall or remove them from store shelves. Ironically, how Target markets the spinners — in the toy aisle and also on its website — belies its claim to us that the spinner is a general use product, not a toy. Neither company refuted our high lead test results.

Lead exposure is particularly damaging for young children because of its impact on development. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to undermine IQ, attentiveness, and academic achievement. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes clear that any amount of lead in a child’s blood is unsafe. Moreover, since the effects of lead exposure cannot be reversed, it is especially important to prevent lead exposure to children in the first place.

“Even small amounts of lead in toys can be ingested when transferred from fingers to mouth or from fingers to food,” said national lead expert Helen Binns, MD, pediatrician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Lead harms the developing brain and is easily ingested through normal hand to mouth behaviors. Beware of these two fidget spinners, as they have dangerous amounts of lead.”

U.S. PIRG Education Fund has the following recommendations:

For consumers:

  • Adults and children alike should immediately stop using these fidget spinners
  • Call on the CPSC to classify all fidget spinners as toys so that they will be held to federal standards for lead in children’s products.
  • Subscribe to email recall updates from the CPSC and other U.S. government safety agencies available at www.recalls.gov.

For Target and fidget spinner distributor Bulls i Toy, L.L.C.:

  • Immediately recall these fidget spinners and remove them from store shelves and websites.
  • Issue a public statement about the recall due to high lead content.
  • Investigate how these toys came to contain such extremely high levels of lead and make those findings public.
  • Ensure that other fidget spinners sold or manufactured do not contain high levels of lead.
  • Notify customers who purchased these fidget spinners, where contact information is available, that they should stop using the fidget spinners due to high levels of lead and offer a return for full refund.

For the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):

  • Ensure that all fidget spinners are classified as toys and that they must meet federal regulations for children’s products.
  • Address the flaws in its 2002 Age-Appropriate Guidelines for Toys that place too much emphasis on manufacturer statements and marketing and not enough on play value or whether a product is “commonly recognized” by consumers as a toy.
  • Investigate any misleading marketing by Target, Corp. and Bulls i Toy, L.L.C. and take appropriate action. Although the labels on the toy boxes say 14+, they’re clearly being marketed to children under 12 years.
  • Conduct testing of other brands of fidget spinners, especially those labeled “brass” or “metal”, for lead.

The fidget spinners were tested for lead content by a CPSC-accredited laboratory. The toys that tested for high lead levels were re-tested to confirm the results. Both test results were given to the CPSC, Target, Corp., and Bulls i Toy, L.L.C.

For more than 30 years, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Trouble in Toyland report has offered safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children. Over the years, our reports have led to more than 150 recalls and other enforcement actions. We will release our 32nd annual Trouble in Toyland report on Tuesday, November 21.

Read our full report here. 

Read our consumer alert here.

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U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety, or well-being.