Target pulls lead-laden fidget spinners

Last Updated Nov 10, 2017 6:06 PM EST

Target (TGT) has stopped selling fidget spinners containing dangerously high levels of lead over its website and was pulling them from store shelves Friday, a day after a consumer group's critical report generated media headlines across the country. 

The US Public Interest Research Group, which produces an annual report about dangerous toys, released data on two fidget spinners sold at Target stores — the Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass and the Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Metal — on Thursday, saying that both gadgets contained excessive lead levels. 

Target, which had been provided with the US PIRG test results prior to the announcement, originally vowed to continue selling the spinners, saying that they met all U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) guidelines because they were classified as "general use products" rather than toys. Friday, the retailer changed course.

"While these two products comply with all CPSC guidelines for fidget spinners, based on the concerns raised, we're removing them from our assortment," said Jenna Reck, senior communications manager at Target. "Additionally, we're working closely with our vendors to ensure all of the fidget spinners carried at Target meet the CPSC's guidelines for children's products."

While children's toys must comply with numerous safety standards, including meeting federal guidelines on lead and phthalates content, the CPSC has classified many fidget spinners as "general use products" for adults. That classification exempts them from toy safety standards. The agency has no lead safety restrictions for adults, even though lead exposure is dangerous for everyone. 

Despite the CPSC's "general use" classification for many fidget spinners, the agency has issued choking warnings about the products -- a warning generally not necessary for adults, who are less likely to eat their toys.  

Following the US PIRG report yesterday, CPSC Commissioner Elliot Kaye, who was chairman of the government watchdog until earlier this year, noted over Twitter: "Seems obvious fidget spinners are toys and should comply with all applicable federal safety standards." 

Interim CPSC Chairwoman Anne Marie Buerkle also warned that light-up spinners contain lithium coin batteries that can cause severe internal burns, if swallowed, and have been the source of fire warnings. 

The CPSC did not return calls seeking comment on Friday.

A spokeswoman for US PIRG said the consumer group's representatives still found the products on store shelves in Chicago and Denver stores late Thursday. Target's decision to pull the products completely was made on Friday.

"We are pleased to see that Target is not selling these products online anymore," said Kara Cook-Schultz, toxics director at US PIRG. "We are delighted to hear that they will also take them off the shelves. This is a big win for consumers. Hopefully this will mean that Target will only sell safe products this holiday season."

Notably, US PIRG continues to test spinners sold at other stores around the country. The consumer group's annual "Trouble in Toyland" report is due out in two weeks. Cook-Schulz said it released the report on the lead content of these two spinners early because of public safety concerns. The brass spinner in question tested at more than 300 times acceptable lead levels for children's products. The metal spinner tested at 13 times acceptable lead levels.