Consumers React To Article About Toxic Pet Toys

greenmonster1.jpgThe public is wary in the wake of a heated debate between and retail giant Wal-Mart over toxicity levels in pet toys manufactured in China.

One Ohio pet owner described her reaction as “scared and horrified” after reading a story that revealed what a forensic toxicologist called elevated levels of lead, chromium, and cadmium in two Chinese-made pet toys sold at Wal-Mart.

“I bought one of those toys for my two dogs,” pet owner Karen N. told the online consumer magazine. “Now I’m really afraid because (the forensic toxicologist) in the article said the toy could shorten my dogs’ lives. This makes me sick.”

Karen said this is the second time this year that she’s purchased the green monster toys for her dogs. Now she is worried about lead building up in her dogs’ bodies and the long-term effects that could have on their health. The dogs have not shown any signs of illness from playing with the green monster toys.

In September, hired Texas-based ExperTox Analytical Laboratory to analyze four Chinese-made pet toys they had purchased from a Kansas City, MO Wal-Mart — two dog toys and two cat toys. A latex dog toy that looks like a green monster tested positive for what ExperTox’s Forensic Toxicologist and Director, Dr. Ernest Lykissa, Ph.D., called high levels of lead and the cancer-producing agent chromium. The green monster toy contained 907.4 micrograms per kilogram of lead. The lab also found other toxic metals in the toy. “There’s cadmium, arsenic, and mercury in there,” Dr. Lykissa said. “This is not a clean toy. This is toxic. Bank on it.” ExperTox also detected “worrisome” levels of cadmium in a cloth catnip toy: 236 micrograms per kilogram.

A war of words promptly ensued between and Wal-Mart. Melissa O’Brien, who identified herself as representing Wal-Mart’s corporate communication (other news organizations said O’Brien told them she worked for a public relations firm called Edelman), wrote an e-mail stating, “If these measurements are in fact the results, as you have reported, they have been severely misinterpreted by the director of ExperTox’s lab.” O’Brien pointed out that CPSC has a limit of 600 parts per million for the total lead in surface coating. She also demanded that withdraw their story and threatened legal action if they did not comply. refused to back down. James R. Hood,’s president and editor in chief, said: “If Wal-Mart wants to sue us, we will meet them in any court in the land and we look forward to what we will find in the discovery process.”’s original article included the opinions of two veterinary toxicologists who said the levels of lead, chromium, and cadmium in the green monster and catnip toys did not pose a health risk to pets, but did not cite any long-term studies to back up their opinions.

Dr. Mike Murphy of the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine told, “I disagree with the interpretation that’s being made (by Lykissa). I consider these to be extremely low numbers and they are not a toxicological concern for pet owners.”

Dr. Fred Oehme at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine was less adamant, saying the risks to dogs and cats from these toys depends on how much of the heavy metals are absorbed in their bodies. “Could they be harmful? The poisoning depends on how much is taken into their systems. Most animals require 30 parts per million of their total daily diet before you get into a problem with lead. Cadmium is more than that. I’m more concerned about the lead than the other two (heavy metals). Lead accumulates and if it gets into the body, it builds up.”

This isn’t the first time in recent weeks that test results on heavy metals in pet toys, and the interpretation of those findings, have pitted Dr. Lykissa against veterinary toxicologists and others in the pet industry. In late August, an Illinois pet owner, worried about the safety of the chew toys her Shelties played with, hired the laboratory at the Illinois Department of Agriculture to test 24 Chinese-made dog toys for lead.

“The only reason I tested these dog toys is because I have lost three Shelties in the last four years and I can only figure out why one of them died,” said Nancy R. of Orland Park, Illinois. She contacted after reading their story about ExperTox’s results on the imported Wal-Mart chew toys.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture’s lab reported that the lead levels in all 24 dog toys Nancy tested fell within that state’s acceptable limits for lead paint in children’s toys. The highest levels of lead were found in a PetSmart tennis ball: 335.7 parts per million. The lowest levels were in a Hartz Rubber Percival Platypus: 0.02 parts per million.

“These are all within the acceptable limits for lead content in children’s toys in Illinois,” said the lab’s director, Dr. Gene Niles, a Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Toxicology (DABVT). “There are no levels for lead content in pet toys. Are these numbers high or low? All I can tell you is that in Illinois, the state allows up to 600 parts per million for lead in kid’s toys and these are all within that guideline.”

The lead levels in PetSmart’s tennis ball are 335 times higher than the amount of lead ExperTox found in the green monster toy. Does that mean both toys are safe because the lead levels are far below 600 parts per million? Or does it mean they both pose a health risk to pets and the children who play with them? The answer depends on which scientists — or public relations person — you talk to.

PetSmart said its tennis balls are safe for dogs and the levels of lead do not pose any health risks. Bruce Richardson, PetSmart’s director of external communication, took exception to’s comparison of the lead levels in the company’s tennis ball to those found in the green monster toy. “The terms ‘high’ and ‘elevated’ are relative terms and must be used carefully and given proper context to avoid confusion and alarm,” Richardson said. “It’s not fair to pit a (forensic) toxicologist against a veterinary toxicologist on this issue. I don’t think he (Dr. Lykissa) has a leg to stand on. He’s not a veterinary toxicologist and has no point of reference when he talks about elevated levels.”

ExperTox disagreed. The lab’s manager said the levels of lead in PetSmart’s tennis ball are elevated and ExperTox does not consider them safe. “Weight is always a factor,” Donna Coneley said. “If you’re dealing with a teacup-size dog you can’t assume that what’s safe for a 20-pound child is safe for a three- to ten-pound dog. Cats are light as well. Their little bodies are not able to spread out the toxins. Animals also tend to chew things off more aggressively than kids. Everyone seems to concentrate on humans with this type of testing, but maybe more scrutiny is needed on what limits are safe for pets.”

That’s the one point where nearly everyone involved in this debate agrees. “There clearly is an absence of regulations for pet toys,” Richardson said. “Maybe the guidelines … the levels … for human standards are not so good based on the exposure for dog (or cats). That’s a huge question that needs to be addressed.”

PetSmart, he said, would not object to having national “acceptable standards and levels” for lead and other toxins in pet toys.

The president of the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) told that his members, who represent more than 900 pet product makers, importers, and livestock suppliers worldwide, would welcome such standards.

“They’re looking for a benchmark that everyone can follow,” said Bob Vetere, president of the non-profit organization. “Maybe what we need is to have everyone sit down at a table and talk about what makes sense. It’s not going to be easy to find an answer, but it’s a process that has to start. The CPSC is certainly somebody that needs to be sitting at that table, and we’d (APPMA) certainly be willing to work with them and help them on this issue,” he said.

The CPSC, however, said its agency currently has no regulatory control over pet products. “We only have jurisdiction over a pet-related product (that is not food), if evidence is presented that the product has put the safety of consumers at risk,” said spokesman Scott Wolfson.

Pet owner Karen from Ohio also supports the adoption of national standards for lead and other toxins in pet toys, and favors federal regulation of pet toys. “And I definitely think the CPSC should take that over. We all know that babies and toddlers put things in their mouths … they could easily put these pet toys in their mouths.”

Meanwhile, Karen and other dog owners say they’ll no longer buy pet toys made in China. But that might not be easy to do. “I can’t find any pet toys that aren’t made in China,” Karen said, adding she wished some company in the USA would start making toys for dogs and cats.


(Thanks menusux)

23 Responses to “Consumers React To Article About Toxic Pet Toys”

  1. Marilyn Terrell says:

    You might be interested to see these National Geographic features on people foods that are harmful to dogs, and when you should call the vet:


  2. joel says:

    Be wary of efforts to promulgate national standards. Frequently these are used as a shield against any other kind of responsibility. Just meet the minimum standards and you are in a safe harbor. Also, the CPSC has been trying to use their regulatory process to preempt all state regulation, including tort action, thereby locking the national levels in as both floor and ceiling for state regulation.

  3. Jenny Bark says:

    No lead or toxic anything in kids & pet toys, period. Change the law to No, not low levels or I don’t buy. Kids & pets had a good life before when we didn’t have the money to buy all the toys we do today.

  4. Trudy Jackson says:

    Jenny Bark, I feel the same way No Lead, No way. No heavy metals, no cadmium. None of this. We don’t want it, We won’t buy it!

  5. Anonymous says:



  6. Anonymous says:

    “Meanwhile, Karen and other dog owners say they’ll no longer buy pet toys made in China. But that might not be easy to do. “I can’t find any pet toys that aren’t made in China,”


    Karen said, adding she wished some company in the USA would start making toys for dogs and cats.”


  7. BLUEBUMMER says:

    Westpaw toys, plush and hard rubber are both MADE IN MONTANA… not china!

  8. AWZ says:

    These recalls are getting out of hand. I’m afraid that this is only the beginning and we’re going to see alot more as we get into the Christmas time. I now go to every day to make sure I have the latest news.

  9. PM says:

    Another Walmart recall story. It was in the news today. 26 “million” pounds of hamburger recalled. The good news was it is “people” food. ;-)

    It took the USDA 18 days to conclude the meat was bad. A brief summary of this news at this link along with a bacterial study on raw diets for cats and dogs.

    The meat recall prompted this post.

  10. mittens says:

    it’s very easy to make cat toys in particular-no special sewing skills really needed. who doesn’t have old socks they can cut up and stuff with fluff and cat nip? hell, my cats play with my socks, wadded up pieces of regular paper, the twist pull off of milk and the new black kitty bats around a folded up jack knife( im not sure where the heck she got it from but she loves smacking it around- i did take it away from her even though no blades could be exposed-).

    not having a dog now i’m not so good with the ideas for diy dog chewies.

  11. Trudy Jackson says:

    So far today they have recalled White chocolate squares- and Aluminum [tin] drinking water bottles with pretty painted things on them- the paint contains lead, from China.

  12. straybaby says:

    they also expanded the soy recall today.

    saw something on cnn about making it so there could be no lead in toys for kids 6yrs and younger. how FREAKIN’ stupid is that?! NO toys should have ANY lead. can’t we just get lead out of our products?! i mean really, HOW hard would it be to just do things RIGHT?!

  13. G in INdiana says:

    A lot of the Kong toy line is made in the USA. There is a company in Alabama that makes rope toys:
    You can also search for dog toys made in US on Google and see what comes up. I only give Kong and rope toys to my dogs. They don’t miss anything else. No rawhide, no Greenies (choking hazard) and nothing from China.

  14. Cathy says:

    Another Walmart recall story. It was in the news today. 26 “million” pounds of hamburger recalled. The good news was it is “people” food. ;-)

    It took the USDA 18 days to conclude the meat was bad. A brief summary of this news at this link along with a bacterial study on raw diets for cats and dogs.

    The meat recall prompted this post.


    It’s not just another Walmart recall story. Topp’s meat is not just sold at Walmart but a lot of grocery stores as well. Everyone is so quick to jump on Walmart; other stores DO carry products that are recalled as well.

  15. In Iowa says:

    My cats favorite catnip toys are also Made in the USA

  16. Anonymous says:

    not for all the lead in China…
    The products which have been recalled for excessive lead paint content - legal limits for which were introduced in 1978 - include:

    192,000 keychains and 63,000 Halloween tumblers sold by Dollar General Merchandising
    150,000 bookmarks and bracelets imported by Antioch Publishing
    79,000 Pirates of the Caribbean themed lights imported by Everready Battery Co
    35,000 toy blocks imported by Kids II
    15,000 toy decorating sets made by CKI Toys and imported by Toys R Us
    10,000 wooden toys sold by KB Toys
    11,200 water bottles imported by Sports Authority
    The baby rattles being recalled are sold by Target.

    The US Consumer Product Safety Commission said the rattles could break open and that babies could potentially choke on the parts.

  17. Kevin says:

    I have an idea. Let’s nuke China so WalMart can declare bankruptcy.

  18. Concha Castaneda says:

    Top’s is going out of business. Wonder how many recalls Walmart will have before they too go out of business.

  19. Katie M. says:

    I’ve just ordered toys from West Paw. I also saw West Paw pet beds at a natural product pet store. The beds are very soft and appear well made. It’s made in Montana. The link is

    I appreciate any information about products not made in China.

    Katie M.

  20. Bill Place says:

    There is a very easy way to prevent this type of problem. (1) stop purchasing anything that is made in China. (2) stop purchasing anything at MALWART. With these two simple rules one can avoid any issues with this poisonous garbage! Always remember that the cost of “everyday low prices” is nearly always toxic to someone or something!

    MALWART is the disease, NOT buying from them is the CURE!

  21. Lynn Zuydendorp says:

    Its not only dog toys my mom bought a dog bed at Costco and the very same day her springer spanial Megan got very sick my mom and dad were so worried they took her to the vet the very next day they ran blood test check stool samples, im not sure what all they did but they didnt find anything, her dogs symptoms were turning circles, not being my moms shadow like always, acting confused, wanting to go outside then not knowing what or where she should go my mom was affarid she maybe had a stroke, Megan is 7 years old and is a house dog, I told her it seemed like some kind of poison, the vets didnt come up with anything as of yet. Then realizing it started the same time as the new dog bed, she checked to see where it was made and it was made in china, she took the bed away and now Megan is almost back to normal, where can this bed be tested so we know for sure and so no other dogs get sick someone please help we are very worried for others. Lynn Zuydendorp

  22. Janice Sclafani-Animal Advocacy/Rescue says:

    As per Lynn’s Zuydendorp’s experience with the toxic dog bed from Costco?

    I got one as a gift for my boxer, from my parents. I was thrilled at the looks of the bed but my excitement soon turned to dismay.

    I saw the bed contained cedar chips :-(

    Cedar chips & shavings are toxic.

    And at the very LEAST, they prove to be highly inflammatory to many types of animal’s respiratory tract.

    Apparetly the chips were embedded in the doggy bed with the fiber-filling,as a way to keep it smelling less doggy and supposedly repel pests.

    I have had animals for years and also am involved in animal rescue( primarily dogs).

    Even I had no idea until I got involved with small animal rescue how bad these chips are- DO NOT USE THEM FOR ANY ANIMAL.


    Back to the Costco doggy bed story:
    While we had to hang onto the doggy bed until the next trip back to Costco to get a refund, we placed it up on a high piece of furniture out of the way of pets and people.

    Meanwhile, the strong cedar smell permeated the entire living room.

    I mean, it really stunk to high heaven of cedar chips.

    My asthmatic sister finally asked that it be placed outside on our enclosed porch, as she was having labored breathing from the strong scent.

    If it made us human sick( headaches, nausea, lungs/eyes) just smelling it- what does it do to animals with smaller respiratory tracts than us ?


    Just another item to steer clear of- regardless of where it was made!



  23. Christina Kourbelas in Utah says:

    I bought a bag of CP’s 10 piece, dog toys made in China from Costco for my dogs this Christmas. On Sat. 12/27/2008 I noticed that 2 of my three dogs were not feeling so great. I woke up Sun. 12/28/08 and the same 2 dogs were throwing up,had diarrhea, dehydrated and were all around lethargic. I took them to the emergency hospital and they admitted them. After extensive review of my home and yard etc. and noticing that the 3rd. dog was not sick (but she is very old and does not play or chew on toys and bones) I could only relate it to the bringing the new toys home. I started looking for answers on the internet and discovered there have been concerns etc. on China made dog toys. The vet hospital kept my dogs on fluids, anti nausea meds. and monitored them for 24 hours and they ran blood tests but nothing showed up so far. We are waiting for the Lead tests to come back which will take a couple of days. My small dog is doing better today but my britney spaniel is still lethargic and not eating etc. but she ate more of the toys than my other dog did and my third dog is still fine but she did not play or chew on any of them. If anyone can help me with this i would appreciate any information. I have gathered all the toys up and saved the package in hopes i can have them further evaluated.

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