WASHINGTON — Eleven state attorneys general are taking a close look at the use of PVC in toys, citing concerns raised by Greenpeace that the toys contain hazardous levels of lead and cadmium.
Details are sketchy, but the states sent a letter Feb. 9 to toy makers and retailers asking for detailed industry research about lead, cadmium and phthalates in PVC products and for information about alternatives.
The New York-based Toy Manufacturers of America responded on behalf of the firms, sending a letter telling the states that ``there is absolutely no credibility to the science that Greenpeace used.''
A spokesman for Wisconsin Attorney General Jim Doyle said: ``We are interested in gathering information. One should not mischaracterize it as an investigation.''
TMA spokeswoman Terri Bartlett claimed the additives are not used in the products listed in the letters, but she would not elaborate. She declined to say if the manufacturers provided the detailed information, referring questions to them. She declined to release a copy of TMA's response.
The letter reportedly was sent to Hasbro Inc., Mattel Inc., Toys ``R'' Us Inc. and one unidentified firm. Mattel officials familiar with the letter could not be reached, but the toy maker said in a general statement about PVC that federal agencies continue to support its use and said the Greenpeace research ``cannot be substantiated by scientific fact.''
The states' letter mentions reports that children's products made from PVC ``contain unsafe quantities of lead and cadmium'' and says the states ``wish to undertake their own evaluation of the issue of lead, cadmium and phthalates in PVC products likely to be used by children.'' Elliot Burg, Vermont assistant attorney general wrote the letter. He could not be reached for comment.
Besides Vermont, the letter says it was written on behalf of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The letter cites a November Greenpeace study that found that 18 percent of 131 PVC products bought in Chicago contained more than 200 parts per million of lead, above the level the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommended is safe for miniblinds.
Similar findings were made in other cities in the United States and Canada, the letter said.
But CPSC said its own studies did not find a problem because the products are not exposed to direct sunlight all day like miniblinds. Sunlight frees up the lead floating in the PVC as a stabilizer.
CPSC also said it found only traces of cadmium. Industry officials added that Health Canada tests have concluded PVC is safe in products for children.
The letter said more research is needed on the use of phthalates as softening agents in PVC, and said ``their ingestion from articles like teething rings is also cause for concern.'' It also said lead causes nervous system damage and decreased intelligence; cadmium has been associated with reproductive problems.