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Parent Tests Prompt Lead Concerns in Popular Sippy Cups

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A popular children's brand is backtracking on a voluntary recall after a blogger and parents across the country claimed to have found lead in the company's sippy cup.

Using an x-ray florescence analyzer (XRF) on Wednesday, the Center for Environmental Health tested the paint on the popular Green Sprouts brand of children's sippy cup. The paint used for the measurement markings on the glass insert tested positive for above 4000 ppm lead.

Bloggers & Moms

The Center learned about the issue on social media after the popular blogger, Natural Baby Mama, offered to test products for her readers.

She worked with another mother, Tamara Rubin, to test the cups using Rubin's own x-ray florescence analyzer. The tests found several cups used by children tested positive for lead.

Green Sprouts Lead Test
Photo: Natural Baby Mama

Those results prompted moms across the country to start doing their own testing, using at-home led testing swabs. Parents sent in photo after photo of what appear to be positive lead test results from the paint on the Green Sprout glass bottles.

Green Sprouts Lead Test 2
Source: Natural Baby Mama

Company Response 

In an email Thursday to KPIX reporter Julie Watts,  I Play -- the manufacturers of Green Sprouts products -- announced a voluntary recall stating in part:

"We take these claims very seriously, and have been investigating, but decided to take corrective action without delay in an abundance of caution... We have made the decision to conduct a voluntary recall."

However, on a phone call with the reporter Friday they backtracked stating the company had received independent test results that show the "lead levels are below the legal limits" in a sample of cups they tested. I Play said it will continue to work with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

While the Commission would not comment on the company specifically, in a statement it stressed that "there is no safe level of lead for children" and noted "strict limits" under federal law at 90 parts per million.

Lead Testing and Location

"In this case, it's detecting lead a little bit above 4,000 ppm," explained Matt Nevins with the Center for Environmental Health as he read the XRF results Wednesday for the Green Sprouts bottles they'd purchased at Whole Foods. "So we would go ahead and send this to an independent lab to verify our results," he added.

Like the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Center of Environmental Health first screens for lead using the XRF then confirms the results using a certified independent laboratory to conduct additional testing. Federal regulators note that consumers should "to not rely on results from home lead test kits since they often give false positives or false negatives."

While some question if the lead paint on the glass bottle might be exempt from the lead regulations because the bottle is designed to be used inside a plastic sippy cover, federal law prohibits exposing children to lead through "reasonably foreseeable use and abuse of the product."

The Center of Environmental Health's Caroline Cox notes that it is both reasonable and foreseeable that kids could access the paint. "They love to take things apart," said Cox.  "Any product designed for children should not have lead in it, it's as simple as that."

Additionally, some parents told the blogger, Natural Baby Mamma, that they use the glass insert without the cover.

Mistakes Vs. Response 

"Green Sprouts, I'm sure, had no idea they were putting lead on their bottles," said Suzanne Price,  the founder of an organic children's boutique that is coincidentally named Sprout San Francisco. She doesn't carry the cups.

"You never know where along the chain things can break down. Maybe they don't ask the right questions or maybe their vendor actually lies to them, as has happened with us with other vendors," she explained.

Price stressed that, in her experience, it has not been the mistakes that companies make, but how the companies respond to the mistakes that really matter to consumers. She says voluntary recalls go a long way to restore consumer confidence in a brand.

"It's wonderful that parents and bloggers are doing this testing and spreading the word," she added. Price said she plans to begin requesting lead testing data in addition to the BPA and Phalates data she currently requires from  sippy cup vendors.

Other Lead Prodcut Concerns

Natural Baby Mama said she found two other non-toxic bottles that also contained a small lead solder dot that was originally covered by a base.

One of the manufactures, Pura, tells ConsumerWatch its bottles now have an updated design and no longer contain lead.

Like Green Sprouts, the other manufacturer, Planet Box, claims its bottles do "pass the tests for lead safety."

It is important to note that just because you have one of these products does not mean that you or your child has been harmed.

Lead and Kids

CEH and other experts stress that every child should be tested for lead even though lead exposures have greatly reduced in recent years.

You can request the lead test from your child's pediatrician. It is actually required in some cities, like San Francisco, which have an abundance of older buildings with lead paint.

Cox says paint is still the primary source of lead exposure for children.

She also notes, if your child does test positive for high levels of lead, there are things you can do to help reduce the negative effects. Though the first and most important step is identifying and removing the source of a lead exposure.


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