Lead levels in children’s meal toys could pose contamination risk at landfills, study finds

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By: H. Grey.

Toys found in children’s meals at fast-food restaurants may contain lead levels high enough to pose a contamination risk at landfills, according to a Robert Morris University study.

The study, conducted by RMU environmental students and professors, was published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health Sciences in December.

The study looked at 35 electronic fast food toys from McDonald’s and Burger King, which were all distributed in children’s meals between 1997 and 2015.  According to the study, 22 of the toys “contained lead in concentrations above permitted federal limits and enough to classify them as hazardous waste.”  The most recent toy to contain this amount of lead was McDonald’s “Minions” in 2013.

Over 220 million toys are distributed in McDonald’s Happy Meals.

“With these toys, the small amount of leached material doesn’t seem like much until you realize the vast number of them that are out there,” Daniel Short, an RMU environmental science professor and the study’s lead author, said in a release.

When studying the resultant material, low levels of the toxic metals barium, cadmium, chromium and mercury were found, along with significant levels of lead.

“These findings are important, because some of what we dispose of into the regular trash stream does contain chemicals that are harmful to humans and the environment,” Short said.  “There are rules and regulations in place to prevent such an occurrence; however, they are not always strictly enforced.”

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