Our main reason to start our business (Essco Safety Check) in 2007 was to help moms and dads know about the products that they and their children interacted with at home. Essentially, we wanted to make sure that our children and family members were not exposed to harmful toxicants. Some things have changed with our business model; expanding to help businesses, industries and government, but our premise is still the same, knowledge and awareness.
At this same time we started Essco Safety Check, my nephew who was not even one years old was found to have small amounts of lead in his blood. We immediately became detectives and began searching for the source of his blood lead levels. Having an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer was an extreme advantage, we were able to rapidly narrow down the potential culprits.
By using the XRF analyzer, my brother was capable of identifying one specific item which his body came in direct contact with. The likely culprit of my nephew’s blood lead levels was a Bumbo seat (a polyurethane seat a baby can sit in on the floor and wiggle around in but not get out of), specifically a yellow Bumbo seat. This one item contained approximately 2000 parts per million (PPM) of lead and my nephew would sit in it, in a diaper, and chew on the sides of the seat.
With this knowledge we simply removed the yellow Bumbo seat from his use and a few months later he was retested for lead in his blood and no lead was found.
All of this was occurring at the end of 2007 and at that time there was no legislation about lead in children’s products other than painted surfaces, so the yellow Bumbo seat was legal. Bumbo seats are not painted; they appear to have an integrated coloring.
By April of 2008, Washington State had passed a new law, the Children’s Safe Products Act (CPSA), which regulated lead and cadmium in total content (this regulation has been preempted by newer federal regulation). And in August of 2008, then President Bush signed the Children’s Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in to law which regulated heavy metals in children’s products. With this new regulation lead is regulated for both total content and soluble content, all other elements within the regulation have a soluble content limit standard (this standard is currently voluntary for most children’s products, the Bumbo seat falls into this category).
In May of 2008 I met with a few U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) personal to go over some test results from new retail product testing, and general consumer product findings from the typical home inspection. This data included children’s products found with lead and cadmium, including some children’s jewelry items and the yellow Bumbo seat that was my nephews and contained lead.
In July of 2008, there was a national recall issued by the CPSC for one item we informed the CPSC about, it contained high quantities of lead.
I’m going to jump ahead to June of 2009.
I was hired to do an inspection on a house boat in Seattle to specifically look for lead. This family had a young child who was diagnosed with lead in his blood, not at the action level, but enough to be concerned. While testing in their home, I was discussing my story of how we got started as a business, my nephew and the yellow Bumbo seat. The couple said, “We have a yellow Bumbo seat.” I said, “Then I think we’ve found your culprit for lead in your child.”
They immediately brought me the yellow Bumbo seat to test; I tested it feeling confident I had solved this case.
Using an XRF analyzer I tested the yellow Bumbo seat. No lead was found, however cadmium was found present in the yellow Bumbo seat.
I suggested that they remove the yellow Bumbo seat from their child’s use and potentially have their child’s blood tested for cadmium.
I must say that in over two years of testing consumer products, specifically Bumbo’s, I’ve think I have tested every color Bumbo that they make. I can say, in all my testing, I’ve never seen lead or cadmium in any other color, except yellow!
A few months ago, I began assisting an AP reporter with data for an investigation of cadmium in children’s jewelry, I shared the same with him as I shared with the CPSC the prior year. During our discussions about children’s products and heavy metals we have found, the yellow Bumbo seat was talked about. We even tried to purchase new yellow Bumbo seats, but were not able to find any new yellow Bumbo’s in any retail store. The only place we found yellow Bumbo seats for sale was on Ebay.com and craigslist.com, but those are used items and the CPSC appears to truly be only concerned about regulations for new products.
As a company, we have decided to offer free yellow Bumbo seat screening. Recently we had a concerned mom stop by our office with her beautiful young child and her yellow Bumbo seat. We tested her yellow Bumbo with our XRF analyzer and did not find lead, but we found cadmium at approximately 2350 PPM.
Is it a coincidence that when lead became regulated, that cadmium was found in its place? Cadmium is a very harmful toxicant and a known carcinogen, but it is not regulated in total content like lead.
I have tested approximately a dozen yellow Bumbo seats since we started our business, I’ve most likely tested hundreds of all Bumbo seat colors. These tests were done mostly at community events or in people’s homes who have hired us to test the consumer products testing. In each and every case when testing a yellow Bumbo seat, lead was found, except for the last two I have tested (both mentioned in this article) which were found with cadmium.
I’m definitely not here to say that all yellow Bumbo seats are made contain lead or cadmium, but everyone that I have tested has been found with one of these harmful elements. The mom who recently visited me to test her yellow Bumbo was very concerned and wondered why no one has been informed of this?
I can only speculate about this, I have not spoken to the manufacturing company, but questions can easily be raised. Did they know about the lead in their products? Do they know about cadmium in their products currently? Where are all the new yellow Bumbo seats? Why can’t I find a new yellow Bumbo seat on the market?
I unfortunately start to think about moral and ethical questions surrounding this entire situation as well. Who is more important the shareholder or the consumer? Is it better to pay a fine then change manufacturing procedures? What are the social and economic impacts of these heavy metals that our children are exposed to?
To my knowledge, no recall was ever issued for this specific item.
I want to emphasize a few key things.
First, just because a consumer product that your child is exposed contains a heavy metal, does not mean that that heavy metal will harm your child. But since that harmful element is present it may cause harm. Simple awareness can mitigate this harm.
Second, I honestly do not know if it is just coincidence about the timing of the metals with the yellow Bumbo seat. Technically, there is nothing illegal about the yellow Bumbo with cadmium. But once again, it is a harmful element and to mitigate exposure, mitigates harm.
Third, I am honestly just trying to bring some awareness to this situation. As I have mentioned, I have tested a variety of Bumbo seat colors, in my experience I have never seen lead or cadmium in any color, other than yellow. All of these tests were tested with XRF analyzers.
Our company goal is to help people and businesses know what is in their environment. Hopefully creating jobs and improving lives; reducing business expenses and helping businesses comply with regulation; most importantly, providing knowledge and awareness.
If you have a yellow Bumbo seat and are close enough to visit our office, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 425-749-4136 to set up an appointment. We will be happy to test your yellow Bumbo seat for free. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.