Conservation Groups Call for Federal Ban on Mercury in Children's Toys and Novelty Items

NRDC Applauds States for Taking Quick Action to Remove Cereal with Spiderman Toys from Market Shelves

WASHINGTON (July 15, 2004) - The federal government should ban mercury batteries in all toys and novelty items marketed to children, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and the Mercury Policy Project said today. Their call for immediate government action came on the heels of news that the Kellogg Co. had included a promotional Spiderman toy containing a mercury battery in a number of its cereals, including Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies and Apple Jacks.

"Superheroes are supposed to protect children, not harm them," said Dr. Linda Greer, director of the Environment and Health program at NRDC. "The superheroes in this case were Connecticut and New Hampshire, which removed the cereal boxes from market shelves, and New York Governor Pataki, who quickly signed a law banning all mercury-powered novelty items."

Dr. Greer also applauded the agreement announced today by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Kellogg. Kellogg agreed to stop distributing the Spiderman toy nationwide and will provide consumers with envelopes to mail the toy back to the company for proper disposal. Most significantly, the company agreed not to use mercury in any future promotions. NRDC and the Mercury Policy Project called on other U.S. corporations to follow Kellogg's lead. (For more information, click here.)

The Spiderman toy contains two button cell batteries, and the cereal boxes do alert consumers that the batteries contain mercury and should be disposed of "properly." NRDC tested two of the batteries and found that they contained small quantities of mercury that were below the legal limit in concentration. Even so, NRDC says it is an unnecessary use of mercury that could harm public health when the toy is discarded. Like lead, mercury is a potent neurotoxin that threatens the brain and nervous system and is especially harmful to women and children. (For jpg photos of the cereal boxes and Spiderman toy, contact NRDC.)

Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project, noted that the mercury in the Spiderman batteries does not pose any immediate threat. "These batteries are similar to the ones in watches and hearing aids," Bender explained. "We recommend that consumers send the toys back to Kellogg in the envelopes that the company will provide."

NRDC and the Mercury Policy Project pointed out that mercury pollution is widespread -- and much of it could be reduced significantly. "Most of the mercury used in consumer products could and should be eliminated," said Dr. Greer. "The federal government is sitting on its hands and allowing products containing this deadly chemical to be sold in stores."

For more information about the threat of mercury and where it comes from, click here.