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Are Zhu Zhu Pets Toxic?

haz general warningThere have been reports popping up that Zhu Zhu pets are toxic and a Zhu Zhu pets recall might be at hand.  This is all based around a report by a website called Good Guide that the Zhu Zhu pets, specifically a Mr Squiggles that they had tested, has higher than allowable amounts of tin and antimony in it.

Is it true that Zhu Zhu pets contain toxic materials?  Are tin and antimony actually toxic?  Are toxic Zhu Zhu pets going to poison little Jimmy on Christmas morning prompting an emergency room visit?  Probably not, but they can have long term health effect you want to avoid.

The biggest danger from Zhu Zhu pets remains the hair entanglement issue many people have reported in the past.  That when kids pick them up to cuddle them and the toy hamster is switched on, long hair can get wrapped around a wheel and pull, prompting probably pain and a quick hit with the sicssors to free them.

Good Guide reports that they performed tests on multiple Mr Squiggles and found amounts of tin and antimony in the toy higher than federal standards for toys.  The main concern is the antimony at a level of ~100 parts per million while the federal standard for toys is 60.

First off, worrying about tin in a toy is probably a waste of your energy.  Folks, go look on your food shelf.  See any cans?  While the can part of modern cans are no longer made of tin like they used to be before 1960 (they are made of aluminum now), the TOP of said cans are frequently made of tin plated steel, which is why the tops of cans look and feel different than the sides.  You probably ate some tin this week after you opened the can and cut into the top, and I’m guessing your kid did too.

Cepia LLC (the manufacturer of the Zhu Zhu pets) issued the following press release:

Manufacturer of Zhu Zhu Pets Confirms Safety of Mr. Squiggles Toy
and Offers Validation of Testing Protocol

Hottest toy of the holiday season passes the industry’s most stringent consumer health
and safety certification standards

St. Louis (December 5) — Cepia LLC, the manufacturer of Zhu Zhu Pets, says
that its Mr. Squiggles toy is “absolutely safe and has passed the most rigorous testing in
the toy industry for consumer health and safety.” This statement is in response to a report
made earlier today by Good Guide that alleges Mr. Squiggles contains unsafe levels of

“We are disputing the findings of Good Guide and we are 100% confident that
Mr. Squiggles, and all other Zhu Zhu Toys, are safe and compliant with all U.S. and
European standards for consumer health and safety in toys”, said Russ Hornsby, CEO of
Cepia LLC.

“All our products are subjected to several levels of rigorous safety testing
conducted by our own internal teams, as well as the world’s leading independent quality
assurance testing organization, and also by independent labs engaged by our retail
partners,” Hornsby said.  “The results of every test prove that our products are in
compliance with all government and industry safety standards.”

Test results show Mr. Squiggles, as well as all other Zhu Zhu Pets products, are
well within U.S. government standards and these results have been certified by the
world’s leading independent testing organizations.

Rigorous testing and inspection procedures are in place for all Zhu Zhu Pets
products to assure that the toys are completely safe. Working in conjunction with
representatives from governing toy industry and trade organizations, we have made
certain that all Zhu Zhu Pets products are regularly and frequently tested through an
independent testing service, Bureau Veritas Consumer Products Services, the global
leader in Quality Assurance.

The Zhu Zhu Pets products are tested in laboratories several times during
production, and again before they ship from the factory. The testing laboratories that
conduct Zhu Zhu Pets product testing are accredited by the largest national and
international bodies and adhere to the strictest protocol for testing. In fact, all Zhu Zhu
Pets testing exceeds the levels for products distributed in the US, by passing the EN71
test required for products distributed in Europe.

“We are contacting the Good Guide people at this moment to share with them all
of our Mr. Squiggles and Zhu Zhu Pet testing data so we can get to the bottom of how
their report was founded,” Russ Hornsby said. “We want to assure everyone already
enjoying Mr. Squiggles or other Zhu Zhu Pets, and those planning to purchase Mr.

Squiggles or another Zhu Zhu Pet this holiday season, that the toy is 100 percent safe and
in compliance with all U.S. and European toy safety standards. I have been in the toy
industry for more than 35 years, and being a father of children myself, I would never
allow any substandard or unsafe product to hit the shelves. That’s why we always test to
not only meet but also exceed safety standards.”

What is the truth here?  It’s very likely that both are correct.  There are probably trace amounts of tin and antimony in some runs of the toy.  There are probably trace amounts of those in ANY metal toy or toy with electronic components and flammable fur or fuzz.

Why might those be in the Zhu Zhu pets?  Tin is commonly used plating material to coat steel to prevent rusting, as in the tops of aluminum cans are tin plated.  Probably some on the wheels or axles to prevent rust should the little toy hamster run through a puddle.  Antimony and tin are also both materials in solder used to attach wires and are also commonly found in electric circuit boards.  They helped to replace LEAD in solder, which is considered far more harmful.  If you have touched a rust proof metal or metal wire attached to any electronic circuit, you have likely come in contact with tin, antimony and a bunch of other stuff to boot.

Note that the federal standards for toys provide exemptions for heavy metals (like antimony and lead) that would not be exposed or accessible through “reasonably foreseeable use and abuse of the product”:

From the CPSC website:

Some children’s products may be exempted or excluded from the new lead limits particularly if the only parts containing lead are inaccessible. A component part is not accessible if the component part is not physically exposed by reason of a sealed covering or casing and does not become physically exposed through reasonably foreseeable use and abuse of the product. The CPSIA directs the Commission to provide guidance by rule within one year on what component parts are considered inaccessible.

Note that while they talk about lead in the above example, it also covers other heavy metals.  It’s very likely that the circuit boards inside the Zhu Zhu pets contain solder with antimony in it that the manufacturer probably tested without, because it would be reasonably expected to never be exposed to a consumer during normal use and abuse.

Antimony is commonly used as a flame retardant and most children’s clothing and fluffy toys contain some amount of antimony.  As do car seats and many other products you use every single day.  Your kids PJs contain antimony and that is against their skin ALL DAY every day.  Your child likely handles a Zhu Zhu pet very little compared to their pajamas.  This is not to say do not be concerned about antimony, but it’s turning a molehill into a mountain while there is a giant mountain right there next to you.

Should you be worried about this and return your Zhu Zhu pets to the store?  Probably not.  Think of it this way.  If you bought your child TWO Zhu Zhu pets and both met the federal standard at 60 PPM, you are exposing them to more than the GoodGuides test found in one.

You should be far more concerned about the tin in your food cans and the antimony in your child’s clothing than the trace amounts found in a toy likely touched for less than an hour a day.

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2 comments… add one

  • tom June 13, 2010, 11:31 pm

    The dust in the air and the soil and rocks under your house ,your cooking pots and forks and spoons are all composed at least partly of those elements. you (the safety obcessed) made us (the teckies) replace lead solder with tin/antimony solder ,because it was much safer….. there is no such thing as absolute safety….stop listening to people who make a living by using statistics to scare you…. use common sense. Stop squeezing the fun out of your kids lives by protecting them from the unseen dangers around them. Your kid is not going to suck on a zuzu pet circuit board ans thusly absorb toxic amounts of xyz. If you catch them doing this,best bet…get them to a psychiatrist…quick…toxic metal poisoning is the least of your troubles.. heavy metals much more toxic than those rain down on us in an uniterrupted shower from the sky by way of space ..so we are drenched in such and have been since before there was life on this planet. The guy trying to scare you into action will neglect to tell you the toxic profile of the computer you read his story on !! Its all bunk…we evolved here and developed mechanisms to handle this and countless other threats,,encountered unseen daily.Yet we live on. Puzzle that out for a nanosecond and you see , the threat is only in the writers pen. Our bopdies contain,need and use many metals and elements that are ‘toxic’ yet without them we would die. eg selenium,copper cobalt,,iron,,phosphorous ,chlorine,bromine iodine,and most of the rest of the periodic table. Any legitimate science writer could twist the facts and make you scared of being alive for fear of these chemicals by distorting the truth…as these guys have done..My kid loves his ZUZU and I am an educated and concerned parent and I will not deny him this toy because this twerp took a creative(distorted) writing course and wants to scare the bejebers out of non chemists..
    Think about whats in it for the guy yelling fire before you outlaw matches !

  • sonam December 29, 2010, 11:57 pm

    Tom – I doubt that you’ll see this, but I’ll still get some satisfaction from writing it to you.

    I don’t disagree with all of your points. But did you read the whole piece? You criticized the author as though he’s some kind of fear merchant, bent on ruining everyone’s fun, yet his point was very similar to yours. You even called him a “twerp.” I don’t think I’ve heard that word more than a couple times since I was in the 6th grade.

    FTA: “You should be far more concerned about the tin in your food cans and the antimony in your child’s clothing than the trace amounts found in a toy likely touched for less than an hour a day.”

    How does that even begin to DENY your child anything? You can decide for yourself whether to buy the toy or not. We have one, and I was curious to see what was being said about them. I read a couple of articles, and this one was much more reasonable and level-headed than many. You may disagree with someone, but getting so ANGRY is absolutely unnecessary. Frankly, it’s juvenile. I was surprised to read that you’re old enough to have children. Why do you feel the need to be so insulting? You’re quick to defend heavy metals and chemicals, but how do you justify the toxicity of your anonymous ramblings? Did you lose your job at an asbestos mine or something?

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