Children’s wear featuring Disney-owned characters such as Minnie Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and Grogu, a.k.a. Baby Yoda, has been recalled by its manufacturer for containing concentrations of lead that exceed the federal content ban, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
The items were sold at retailers such as Army & Airforce Exchange Service, Burlington, DD’s Discount, T.J. Maxx and Ross, as well as online on Amazon, from November 2021 through August 2022, according to Bentex Group, which also licenses properties from DreamWorks Animation, Nickelodeon and Warner Brothers.
Roughly 87,000 of the garments, which were sold in sets of tops and bottoms, have been recalled as of Nov. 23, the CPSC said, noting that their screen-printed inks can pose a lead poisoning hazard, especially to young children. The World Health Organization warns that high levels of exposure to the heavy metal can attack the brain and central nervous system, resulting in coma, convulsions and even death. Children who survive severe lead poisoning can end up with intellectual disabilities and behavioral disorders, but even lower levels can affect their brain development, leaving them with reduced IQs.
On Instagram, Bentex Group posted a list of label IDs that customers could check against. Anyone who purchased the affected products, it said, should immediately stop using them and instead contact the company for a refund. “We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you and appreciate your understanding in this matter,” Bentex Group wrote.
The company did not respond to an email asking how the contamination happened and whether it was putting controls in place to prevent something similar from happening again. Disney also did not return a request for comment.
Consumers fumed in the comments section of the post. “‘We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience’ ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Apologize for putting our children in danger,” one said. “I am so angry about this. You don’t accidentally have lead products. I purchased a few of these products,” said another, punctuating the statement with a row of fire emojis.
It’s been a banner season for children’s clothing recalls. Just last week, Carter’s withdrew thousands of fleece footed pajamas due to puncture and laceration hazards, while earlier in November, T.J. Maxx parent TJX recalled more than 110,000 chenille baby blankets whose threads posed choking and strangulation risks. In October, children’s sleepwear sold at Amazon and JCPenney was found by CPSC to breach federal flammability standards. The month before that, Amazon-exclusive seller Kolan recalled a style of kids’ sandals that contained more lead than regulations allow.
Another company that recently removed several children’s items, including a blue-and-purple tutu, was Shein, now the world’s most Googled brand. The e-tail Goliath made the move after lab tests commissioned by Greenpeace Germany uncovered excessive levels of hazardous chemicals, including phthalates, formaldehyde and heavy metals, in a number of pieces. This wasn’t the Gen Z fave’s first offense: An earlier investigation by CBC Marketplace found that a toddler jacket purchased from Shein clocked almost 20 times the amount of lead that Health Canada says is safe for children, while a small red purse registered five times more than the agency’s threshold.
Martin Mulvihill, co-founder and managing partner at Safer Made, a San Francisco-based venture capital fund that backs companies that reduce human exposure to toxic chemicals, said that banned chemicals like lead wind up in consumer products because there isn’t enough testing in the supply chain. More critically, there is “very little” communication between brands and the Tier 2, 3 or 4 suppliers who are “actually dealing with the raw materials.”
“I know that there are no brands specifying lead paint,” Mulvihill told Sourcing Journal. “A brand may have an RSL [restricted substances list] that is shared with their Tier 1 supplier, but that information is not always passed along to all of the material providers. There is not enough enforcement/verification of RSLs within the supply chain.”