get the lead out… of your bouncy castle

Here’s the latest in the list of Things You Had No Idea You Were Supposed To Be Freaking Out About:

Inflatable “bounce houses” (we call ’em “bouncy castles” or “jumpy castles” in my neck o’ the woods) may contain levels of lead up to 70 times above the federal limit.

According to yesterday’s New York Times, a watchdog group called the Center for Environmental Health tested the vinyl in dozens of bounce houses and found that many of them expose children to levels of lead that violate California law, prompting the attorney general of California to file a lawsuit against the companies that either make them, or rent them out for events.

Here’s the CEH on why this matters: 

Bounce houses are often made with vinyl (polyvinyl chloride, or PVC), a “poison plastic” that is often made with lead, a neurotoxin that can cause learning disorders, brain and nerve damage, hearing problems, stunted growth, and digestive problems. Scientists are increasingly convinced that there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for young children.

In other words, when your kid gets out of a jumpy castle dizzy, it might not be from the bouncing.

This is where I always get annoyed: what do you MEAN, jumpy castles are full o’ lead? Who decided this was OK in the first place, since the overwhelming viewpoint of the medical establishment is that there is no amount of lead too small to cause a child potential harm? 

I had no idea this was something I was supposed to be worried about. Heck, we have a jumpy castle in our basement, and it’s the hit of the neighborhood. Should I dispose of it as hazardous waste? I’ll be watching the news on this one, calling the toy company to see if ours is made of PVC, and in the meantime, making sure the kids wash their hands when they get out. Reducing the particles of lead all over their little bodies by about six percent, I am sure.

Does this make you mad? And more importantly: what do you call these things where you live?

Update: I just checked the Little Tikes website (maker of our jumpy castle) and here’s what they say:

Little Tikes tests every product to ensure 100% compliance with the entire Consumer Product Safety Information Act (CPSIA) including phthalates and lead content in both surface coatings as well as structure.

Note that they don’t claim to have no lead; just that they comply with what the CPSIA says is a safe level. Although there’s no such thing as a safe level. Hmm.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous August 13, 2010 at 9:10 pm

They are called bounce houses in my neck of the wood central CA.


Miss Britt August 14, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Arghghghg. Nothing is safe anymore!


Sheila Baum August 15, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Where was the government when they started making these houses? why do we wait until kids play with them and then say, "oh, it's not safe!"


Ann Imig August 16, 2010 at 2:14 am

I HATE this type of information because of course we can't ignore it.

So I often ignore it.


Meredith August 17, 2010 at 2:55 am

At some point you realize they are going to come out and say, "Parents are bad for kids".

Every single thing is bad for kids. Apparently. You know what's worse for kids than even bounce houses? Over-stressed, over-anxious, over- informed and over-neurotic parents. And that's what these "warnings" do to us. Screw 'em. I ignore the majority of this stuff because what's good and bad for us/kids changes on a daily basis. My parents were never subjected to this crap and we turned out fine. If we do the best we can and use our best judgement, that's about all we can do , and I think that's enough. The fact we are on this site shows we care enough about our kids to make sure we aren't the only ones making mistakes!

And growing up in New Orleans, we called them space walks. Now living in Shreveport, everyone here calls them jumpys or bounce houses.


Amy Wilson August 17, 2010 at 3:09 am

Well Meredith you hit the nail on the head. Me being the only freak mother who won't let my kid in the bounce house/jumpy castle/space walk at some other kid's birthday party would probably be far more damaging than a little bit of lead dust.

Still. Hoping someone will see this story in NYT and make a line of lead-free jumpys. it'd be nice to have an option…


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