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Target Faces Criticism for Not Recalling Fidget Spinners With Reported High Lead Levels

Note: Target has since reversed its decision. See our updated coverage here.

A consumer advocacy group criticized Target for not recalling fidget spinners that contain what's considered to be excessive levels of lead.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group said in a report that Target and Bulls-I-Toys haven't taken any action and the spinners are still being sold.

Target and Bulls-I-Toys do not plan to take any action because they say the spinners are for "general use," and are not deemed children's products by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“The two fidget spinners cited are clearly marked on the package as ‘appropriate for customers ages 14 and older,’ and are not marketed to children,” a Target spokesman told The Washington Post in an email. “As a result, the fidget spinners identified are not regulated as toys or children’s products and are not required to meet children’s product standards.”

While the packaging is clearly marked for "customers ages 14 and older," until Thursday the description on Target's website said the Fidget Wild spinner was for children "6 years and up," Jenna Reck, a spokesperson for the company, confirmed.

Target markets the Fidget Wild spinner as a "creative thinking" tool. (Target)

The toy sits on shelves in the toy section, near products meant for young children, as well as sporting goods, adult board and other items. Reck said the spinners are also sold in the front of the store, and the placement is based on where Target thinks consumers will go to find them.

Lab reports found two fidget spinners contained high levels of lead, well over the federal legal limit of 100 parts per million.

The report found the Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass tested at 33,000 parts per million for lead, while the Fidget Wild Premium Spinner in Metal tested at 1,300 parts per million.

Exposure to high amounts of lead have been shown to cause lead poisoning that can lead to organ damage and long-term health problems.

Target issued this statement about the report:

Target is committed to providing high quality and safe products to our guests, and we closely review all product safety claims that are brought to our attention. The CPSC has specific guidance in place for manufacturers of fidget spinners, which are carried at a variety of retailers. For more information, please contact Bulls i. Toys, LLC, and consult CPSC guidelines.

PIRG urged customers to not purchase the fidget spinners, which sell for $19.99.

“All fidget spinners have play value as children’s toys regardless of age labeling,” said Danny Katz, director of PIRG. "The buck has to stop with someone ... CPSC stands for the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Now is the time for it to stand up for consumers. We can't sit idly by while children play with these toxic toys -- and yes, common sense dictates that these are toys.”

The CPSC says on its website that "most fidget spinners are general use products unless they are primarily intended for children 12 years of age and younger."

In determining if they are for children or not, the CPSC looks at the following, "whether the product and packaging designs are primarily intended to appeal to a child 12 years of age and younger, and the product’s age grading."

The CPSC posted this guidance for parents on its website:

Fidget spinners and children:

  • Keep fidget spinners away from children under 3 years of age.
  • The plastic and metal spinners have small pieces that can be a choking hazard. Choking incidents involving children up to age 14 have been reported.
  • "Light up" fidget spinners may come with button or lithium coin cell batteries. These batteries are an ingestion risk for children and the larger litium coin cells can lead to sever burns in the esophagus.
  • Warn children of all ages not to put fidget spinners or small pieces in their mouths and not to play with the fidget spinner near their faces.

In September, WITI sent fidget spinners from Amazon, Walmart and Target to a lab for testing. While the fidget spinners from Target didn't test above the allowable level of lead for children, multiple spinners from Amazon and one that was sold online by Walmart did: