Consumer group warns of 'dangerous' slime products and other hazardous toys

A new report warns of the potential for "dangerously high" levels of a chemical in slime products, but one expert said he believes the warnings are overblown.

(CNN)A consumer advocacy group is warning parents of what it calls "dangerously high" levels of a chemical called boron in popular slime toys marketed to children -- although an expert disputed the findings and said the warning is overblown.

The warning was contained in the annual report by the US Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. The "Trouble in Toyland" safety survey was published Tuesday ahead of the major holiday shopping season.
The group noted "toys are safer than ever before," but that more work needs to be done to make them safer. PIRG's report highlighted the potential hazards of slime, toys with possible choking hazards and ones that could violate children's privacy by sharing data.
"With hundreds of new toys hitting the market every year, our survey of only 40 toys suggests there may be other potentially dangerous toys slipping through existing protections or worthy of further investigation," the group said.
    The group singled out six popular slime products for what it described as containing "dangerously high boron content." Boron is a nonmetallic element, and compounds of it, such as borax, have been used in products for decades, ranging from detergents to roach poison. The US PIRG Education Fund said it found that "significant concentrations of boron, as high as 4,700 parts per million (ppm) in popular slime toys."
    "Young kids are known to put everything in their mouths and when it comes to slime that could have serious consequences," said Adam Garber, the lead author of the report. "These high levels of boron can cause nausea, vomiting and long term reproductive health issues. Parents should closely monitor their kids when playing with this toy and call poison control if any is eaten."
    Garber added, "We should protect children by ensuring every package has appropriate labels moving forward and determine health-based standards to ensure children don't end up in the emergency room from their holiday gift."
    The United States does not have established standards on limits for boron in products. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says exposure to large amounts of boron -- about 30 grams of boric acid -- "over short periods of time can affect the stomach, intestines, liver, kidney, and brain and can eventually lead to death." Fatal doses for children are estimated to be 5 to 6 grams, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
    PIRG noted the European Union has a limit of 300 ppm for boron and that there should be a "full-fledged investigation to determine if limits should be established" in the US. "Policymakers should continue to evaluate new threats, such as boron, and ensure the Consumer Product Safety Commission has the funding and authority to protect the public," the report said.
    However, Rick Sachleben, a member of the American Chemical Society who has experience with boron, said it's important to distinguish the fact that "all forms of boron are not equally toxic." He said sodium borate, the known component used in slime, has "very low toxicity."
    "You'd almost have to do something beyond reason to make it toxic," he said, adding that a child would need to eat "multiple containers" before it reached toxic levels.
    "The health risks are relatively low and can be controlled by telling your kid: 'If you eat the slime, I'm not going to buy you any more," Sachleben said.
    Sachleben wasn't the only one to take issue with the PIRG report.
    Wonder Workshop CEO Vikas Gupta told CNN that information about his company's product in the report was categorically false. The PIRG report, citing an investigation by the Mozilla Foundation, said Wonder Workshop's Dash robot "shares your information with third parties."
    "That is absolutely incorrect," Gupta said. "We don't collect any personal identifiable information from children, and we do not share any information from the apps or the software or robots to any third-party ever. None of that happens."
    Amazon, which had its Amazon