Video: Hottest holiday toy unsafe for kids?

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    >>> once again, here's meredith.

    >> now to new safety concerns over the hottest toy of the holiday season , the zhu zhu pet. "today" national correspondent, natalie morales , has details. natalie, good morning.

    >> well the consumer group good guide is raising concerns. they say one zhu zhu pet, mr. squiggles, contains unsafe levels of metals that could be harmful to children. but the makers deny the claim. with the holiday shopping season in full swing, a lot of parents are wondering if zhu zhus are safe. they're the hottest toys of the holiday season .

    >> the kids love it. i haven't seen them, they're out. everywhere you go, they're out of them.

    >> in stores, zhu zhu pets are nearly impossible to find. the normally $8 toys are selling for five times their retail price . now a little-known online consumer group , good guide, is raising questions about the safety of this season's must-have toy.

    >> we found the chemical, antimony, 93 parts per million in the fur of the pet. and 160 parts per million in the nose of the pet. the standard is 60 parts per million .

    >> good guide tested the light brown zhu zhu pet. it did not test the other four zhu zhu pets.

    >> we're not calling for a recall. we're not calling for people to throw these away. we want to make this information available so people can make decisions.

    >> the company that makes the zhu zhu pets disagrees with good guide's findings. saying their product is 100% safe.

    >> we wouldn't be able to ship the product that we're shipping, if it hadn't passed all testing regulations. these products are tested and retested and during the process of sippingle shipment, are probably tested three to four different times. all showing that these are absolutely wonderful, safe products.

    >> the makers of the zhu zhu pet say there will be no recall. and the only reason their product wouldn't be on store shelves is because of high demand.

    >> it has passed every one of the safety standards . we're certainly that in the next few days, that this story will basically go away.

    >> now the metal that good guide cites as a concern, antimony, has been tested object animals in by the department of health and human services , listing ailments after large consumption. however, they say they don't know what health effects would occur in people who swallowed the metal. and another investigation will be completed very swiftly.

    >> is it true that mrs. squiggles is leaving mr. squiggles and he's hired a lawyer? just serious.

    >> and he'll be paying antimony?

    >> very good, natalie.

    >> now back to washington and

NBC News and news services
updated 12/7/2009 9:21:34 AM ET 2009-12-07T14:21:34

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has opened an investigation into the popular Zhu Zhu Pets toy because it may contain higher-than-allowed levels of antimony, a heavy metal which if ingested can make children sick, NBC News reported.

"We will complete our review swiftly," the agency said in a statement. "With new safety measures in place for children and toy recalls down from previous years, consumers can have greater confidence when shopping this year and in the CPSC."

The CPSC probe came after San Francisco-based GoodGuide named Zhu Zhu Pets hamsters one of the top-selling toys with low ratings after finding the chemical on the hair and nose of one of the toy hamsters, called Mr. Squiggles.

The group assigned the toy, aimed at 3- to 10-year-olds, a rating of 5.2 on a 10-point scale.

On prolonged exposure, antimony — which is used in textiles and plastics to prevent them from catching fire — can cause lung and heart problems, ulcers and diarrhea.

But the toy's maker, St. Louis-based Cepia LLC, insisted in a statement that its Mr. Squiggles toy is "absolutely safe" and has passed rigorous testing. The company said it was contacting GoodGuide to share its testing data and determine how the report was founded.

"I have been in the toy industry for more than 35 years, and being a father of children myself, I would never allow any substandard or unsafe product to hit the shelves," Russ Hornsby, Cepia's CEO, said in the statement.

Zhu Zhu Pets, which retail for about $10, have become this season's toy craze, following in the footsteps of Tickle Me Elmo and Cabbage Patch Kids. The small hamster toys are available at Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us, Target and other retailers, but can fetch $40 or more on resale Web sites like eBay and Craigslist.

That's what brought it to GoodGuide's attention. GoodGuide CEO Dara O'Rourke told The Associated Press on Saturday that his group bought three of each of the year's 30 hottest toys and tested them multiple times.

Antimony was measured at 93 parts per million in the hamster's fur and at 106 parts per million in its nose. Both readings exceed the allowable level of 60 parts per million, said O'Rourke, an associate professor of environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley.

O'Rourke said GoodGuide's test results, released Friday, also indicated the possibility that some toys contained phthalates, chemicals that were subject to tougher standards in the Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act passed last year.

The CPSIA created some of the toughest lead limits in the world and banned certain phthalates in toys, and included mandatory limits on other heavy metals, such as antimony.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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