Nancy, an Illinois pet owner, wanted to know how safe the chew toys her Shelties played with were.
She hired an Illinois Department of Agriculture laboratory to test 24 Chinese-made dog toys for lead.
Nancy became concerned for her pets’ health after the pet food recalls. She also noticed that all of her dogs’ toys were all made in China. When she went to Petco and PetSmart, she could only find one toy in both stores that was not made in China.
â€œI was doing this personally for the safety of my dogs and only tested for lead because thatâ€™s what theyâ€™re finding in the toys from China,â€ she said.
According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture lab, all 24 toys had lead levels that were within Illinois’s acceptable limits for lead paint in children’s toys. The lab also stated that the lead levels were below the 600 parts per million level that is accepted by federal law for lead paint in children’s toys.
The highest levels of lead, 335.7 parts per million, were found in a PetSmart tennis ball. A Hertz Rubber Percival Platypus had the lowest levels of lead — 0.02 parts per million.
Dr. Gene Niles, who is the lab director and a Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Toxicology, said: â€œThese are all within the acceptable limits for lead content in childrenâ€™s toys in Illinois. 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 kidâ€™s toys and these are all within that guideline.â€
But the lead levels found in the PetSmart tennis ball are 335 times higher than the amount Expertox, a Texas, lab found in one of the Wal-Mart pet toys they tested.
A latex dog toy that looks like a green monster was found to have lead levels of 907.4 micrograms per kilograms.
â€œThatâ€™s almost one part per million,â€ said ExperToxâ€™s director and forensic toxicologist Dr. Ernest Lykissa, Ph.D. â€œWith that kind of concentration, if a dog is chewing on it or licking it, heâ€™s getting a good source of lead.â€
Expertox’s lab manager said that the levels found in the PetSmart tennis ball are not safe. She said that those levels were higher than in the green monster toy, and that the 335.7 parts per million of lead found in the tennis ball is not a safe level for pets.
But Dr. Niles, at the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s lab, disagreed with Expertox. He said that one part per million of lead should not pose a health risk to pets.
â€œThatâ€™s my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Illinois Department of Agriculture,â€ he said. â€œYouâ€™d find very few things that you would let anybody play with if that (one part per million) was your benchmark.â€
in response to the Illinois lab findings, PetSmart said their products are safe and they routinely test their products for lead and other toxins. A company spokesman said PetSmart products meet safety and quality standards and protocols that are based on federal, state, institution, and the company’s own standards.
The company spokesman also said Expertox using one part per million as a safety measure for toxins levels in pet toys is not fair.
â€œThe terms â€˜highâ€™ and â€˜elevatedâ€™ are relative terms and must be used carefully and given proper context to avoid confusion and alarm,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s not fair to pit a (forensic) toxicologist against a veterinary toxicologist on this issue. I donâ€™t think he (Dr. Lykissa) has a leg to stand on. Heâ€™s not a veterinary toxicologist and has no point of reference when he talks about elevated levels. Elevated against what? I donâ€™t think his results bring any value to this discussion. And his comments will not change anything weâ€™re doing. To our knowledge, we are not selling any products that have compounds that have tested above levels of toxicity established by the various entities named above and are not posing any health threat to pets or humans.â€
Despite the difference in opinions on what is considered safe and what is not, the pet industry has agreed that there needs to be regulations on pet toys and national acceptable standards for lead and other toxins in pet toys need to be established.
Until that happens, the president of the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association said members of the organization will be triple-checking and testing their products.
Meanwhile, Nancy said she is glad that the lab found that her dogs’ toys were deemed to be safe. However, she is a bit troubled that she can’t find any pet toys made in the United States.