Zhu Zhu Hamster Maker Disputes Toxic Claim

Zhu Zhu, this year's hottest toy. CBS

The maker of Zhu Zhu Pets is producing its own scientific tests to fight against a San-Francisco-based consumer group's findings that its popular hamster toy contains unsafe amounts of a toxic metal.

Cepia LLC, Zhu Zhu's manufacturer, presented its test results Monday, indicating the amount of the metal antimony in the toy is below the federal government's safety levels. The company says its product is "absolutely safe and has passed the most rigorous testing in the toy industry for consumer health and safety," according to a statement Cepia released Saturday.

Read Cepia's study of the Zhu Zhu hamster (PDF)

The consumer group GoodGuide recently claimed the Zhu Zhu Pet Mr. Squiggles , which could cause health problems, reports CBS News Correspondent Kelly Wallace.

The Zhu Zhu Pets have become this holiday season's toy craze following in the footsteps of Tickle Me Elmo and Cabbage Patch Kids. But the for-profit consumer group GoodGuide is giving the toy low marks for safety.

"We found a chemical called antimony, which is a metal which has potential health hazards related to it," GoodGuide Co-Founder Dara O'Rourke said.

The federal limit for antimony is 60 parts per million, but GoodGuide says its tests measured 93 parts per million in the toy hamsters' fur and 106 parts per million in the nose.

"If these toys aren't even meeting the legal standards in the U.S. then I would say that it isn't worth the risk for me to bring it into my household." O'Rourke said.

But there are some that feel more testing needs to be done.

"The testing that the GoodGuide is designed to do is tell you whether or not a chemical is present in the toy," said Caroline Cox of the Center for Environmental Health. "If you wanna know whether the toy meets federal standards for that chemical, you'd have to do a lot more testing."

Cepia gave a full-throated defense of its toy after media outlets spread GoodGuide's report.

"We are disputing the findings of GoodGuide, and we are 100 percent confident that Mr. Squiggles, and all other Zhu Zhu Toys, are safe and compliant with all U.S. and European standards for consumer health and safety in toys," Cepia CEO Russ Hornsby said in a statement Saturday.

At certain doses, antimony can cause health problems, but federal guidelines are generally set at 1 percent of the level known to be dangerous. So even if the Zhu Zhu Pet has twice the federal limit, that's still only 2 percent, not something most people should be concerned with.
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