Bad Hampster: Consumer Group Says Popular New Toy Is Not Just Cute But Carcinogenic

One of the hottest toys this year is Zhu Zhu pets — robotic hamsters. GoodGuide, a consumer group, has alleged that the toys are not only hot but toxic. While the manufacturer denies the allegation, the group insists that the toys have a dangerous level of antimony, which can cause cancer as well as lung and heart damage.

Antimony is used in electronics and flame-proofing as well as paints, rubber, ceramics, and enamels. It is also used in the semiconductor industry. The group says that it found 93 to 106 parts per million in the toys which is above the 60 parts per million set by the federal government.

The toy manufacturer, St. Louis, Missouri-based Cepia LLC, said its products meet the standard.

These type of allegations can result in litigation over “product disparagement” or related defamation claims. As with defamation, truth and opinion are defenses in product disaparagement which often involves food or agricultural products. Opinion would not apply here since the group is making a clear factual assertion. For example, Oprah was sued by the beef industry after making a statement on her show about not eating beef. (She won after a trial)

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10 thoughts on “Bad Hampster: Consumer Group Says Popular New Toy Is Not Just Cute But Carcinogenic”

  1. UPDATE: GoodGuide Announces New Protocols to Enhance Consumer Product Testing (12/8/2009)

    Excerpt from posting at

    GoodGuide released test results on December 4, 2009 that showed that certain popular holiday toys contained levels of antimony and chromium that exceeded federal standards. Two days later, GoodGuide learned that it had used a testing methodology that was different than the one used to determine the federal standards. In keeping with its commitment to transparency, GoodGuide announced this fact on its website the same day and in a press release the following morning, December 7.

    “It was inappropriate to compare our results to federal standards because we used a different testing methodology. Our new protocols are designed to ensure that this does not happen again,” said O’Rourke, who is also an associate professor of Environmental and Labor Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. “We apologize for any confusion and inconvenience that we may have caused consumers who have come to rely on GoodGuide for expert advice on the safety of toys and other products.”

    GoodGuide’s testing involved a precise methodology that is used by industry and federal agencies, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency. The test measured chemical levels with a Thermo Scientific NITON XL3t series X-ray fluorescence analyzer, which is designed to detect total chemical elements on the surface of a material, including toys. The testing procedure for establishing federal standards uses a different method in which materials are tested for their soluble metals content.

    One of the toys cited in the results published by GoodGuide on December 5 was the popular Zhu Zhu Pet Hamster, Mr. Squiggles. GoodGuide is referring all questions about the safety of the toy to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

    Because of the differing methodologies used to test the toy, GoodGuide has removed from its website the product review of the Zhu Zhu Pet Hamster, Mr. Squiggles, pending additional testing. The company also removed reviews of the other toys that were cited in the results published on December 4.

  2. [youtube=]

    The sound isn’t very good, but the song is priceless.

  3. Um. I’d say that the spelling “Hampster” is a good indication of the SLOPPINESS of the Good Guide’s “evaluations”.

    Migration is what comes out of the toy, not what is in the toy. The 60 ppm limit is a MIGRATION limit, not a content limit.

    Heck, apparently the Good Guide people can’t even READ.

    I would expect that the manufacturer should have no problem winning any product disparagement case. And all power to them!

  4. AY–

    Not so…not so. It was spelled h-a-m-s-t-e-r on the Zhu Zhu Pets website.

    BTW, up here in the “Notheast” the “Live Free or Die” state is pronounced New Hampsha.

  5. Elaine M.,

    That is the Chinese version of spelling of Hamster hence New Hampster.

  6. Lets see were they invented by the CIA to combat the HIV/AIDS Virus that they created. Hmmmm.

    In reality once the risk is known would it not be assumption of risk? How about the 10 million fine?

  7. Oh m’ GA!

    Leave the lovelies alone … don’t you realize how much “harrrrdddd wwwwweeeeeerrrrrrkkkkk it takes to make things so wonderfully carcinogenic????????????

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