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Lead Case Targets Disney Attractions

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

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M-i-c-k-e-y M-o-u-s-e is getting s-u-e-d over l-e-a-d.

Why? Because he is allegedly contaminating small, unsuspecting visitors to Disneyland, the “Happiest Place on Earth,” with the toxic substance.

‘Excessive Levels of Lead’

That is the allegation by the Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation, which has gone to court seeking to force the Disney company to post warning signs about the lead or to cover lead-laced surfaces throughout the 56-year-old theme park in Anaheim, CA.

 Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation

 Images: Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation

Environmental groups say the Disneyland theme park, which opened in 1955, is riddled with lead.

The nonprofit filed suit in April against Walt Disney Parks & Resorts U.S. Inc., alleging that attractions and locations throughout the park are riddled with lead.

The suit, filed in California Superior Court - Orange County, alleges "excessive levels of lead in such commonly touched objects as the Sword in the Stone attraction," along with brass door knobs at Minnie’s House, stained-glass windows in a door at the entrance to a beauty salon in Cinderella’s Castle,” and other locations.

Injunction Sought

On Friday (Oct. 21), the group filed for an injunction seeking to compel the company to comply with the state’s toxic-chemical notification law. That motion is scheduled for a hearing Nov. 22.

“We are asking the court to force Disney to take steps that should have been taken when we first told them that children at Disneyland are in danger of illegal lead exposures," Mateel president William Verick said in a statement.

In 2010 and 2011, Mateel and the nonprofit Ecological Rights Foundation had individuals conduct "wipe testing" of various surfaces at Disneyland. An independent lab analyzed the test wipes using a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health protocol, Mateel said.

‘Dozens’ of Locations

“During several visits to Disneyland beginning in June 2010, we found accessible lead at exposures above California safety standards in dozens of objects throughout the park,” Mateel reported. “Under the law, consumers must be warned of lead exposures of more than 0.5 micrograms per day.”

Tested locations showed up to 1,300 micrograms of lead exposure, the group said.

 Disneyland’s “Sword in the Stone” attraction
Disneyland’s popular “Sword in the Stone” attraction carries 17 times the legal limit of lead exposure, a lawsuit contends.

Mateel says it sent two legal notices to Disney, alerting the company to California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (known as Prop 65), which requires “clear and reasonable” notification of consumers exposed to chemicals, including lead, known to cause cancer or reproductive harm.

It says the company ignored the notices.

Disney: ‘Full Compliance’

Disney says it is not violating the law. “We have not seen the papers that we are told are being filed, so we cannot comment specifically,” a Disney spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times. “However, we believe that Disneyland Resort is in full compliance with the signage requirements.”

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has previously successfully sued Disney over lead in its retail products. Last week, CEH joined Mateel and a third organization at a news briefing about the current suit.

Said CEH Research Director Caroline Cox: “It’s disappointing that a $38 billion company like Disney can’t be bothered to clean up their parks so they’re safe for children.”


Tagged categories: Exposure conditions; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits; Lead; Recreational Facilities

Comment from Scott Starchuk, (10/27/2011, 2:37 AM)

I understand that paint contains lead and other toxic components and it's harmful to people. It gets to the point though that we should start considering that everything built prior to the 70's should be knocked down because it's not worth the effort to maintain. Then we can build everything again only to find out down the track the products we use today are just as harmful.

Comment from Mark Bowen, (10/27/2011, 8:33 AM)

1300 micrograms of lead per day times the number of children per day times the number of days since 1956 would be enough to support a good sized lead mine.

Comment from Dan Chute, (10/27/2011, 8:54 AM)

For perspective, consider that over the past 55 years that park has been visited thousands of times each year, end to end, by Board Certified Industrial Hyienists, Public health Nurses, Pediatricians, Toxicologists (yes, wearing goofy Bermuda shorts and mouse-ear hats) with their children, parents and grandchildren and there's no indication that these highly trained and impartial risk assessment professionals have ever identified this matter as a credible exposure issue. I wonder why???? If the activists seeking a cut of Disney's revenue (Translation: higher ticket prices for US families) are truly concerned about protecting the health of California's citizens, maybe they could reduce their output of deadly CO2(produced by exhaled breath from unnecessary talking), be quiet and sit down. Since the control measure for this alleged "hazard" is handwashing and personal sanitation, and you should do that anywhere due to the "germs" on surfaces in public places - especially where you have kids sneezing, changing diapers and barfing after eating 3 hot dogs and a gallon of soda before going on a roller coaster - we may have to agree that if restrooms and hand sanitizers are available, the best control measure is already in place. Besides, at a daily cost of over $500, how much "exposure time" can a family AFFORD to spend inside the gate of that park?

Comment from Chuck Beckman, (10/27/2011, 10:22 AM)

The lead rules had their beginnings in publicly-funded housing, and were the result of verifiable data showing the link between a lead hazard and physical harm done to residents. Where is the verifiable harm in this situation? Unfortunately, history has shown us the net result of campaigns by seemingly good cause groups: Prohibition was the result of pressure from activists pointing out the very real problem of alcohol consumption. Whether you agree or not, the net result was people in the United States kept drinking, the small local breweries and distillers went out of business, liquor prices increased, and organized crime gained a major foothold in our society and government. I am reminded of that same scenario now as we see an activist group singling out a large corporation saying, “Aha, caught you! Change your signs!” Who wins in this? My guess is no one. Disney will change their signs, the activist group will get a settlement, and we will pay higher ticket prices. Perhaps more lead harm has been done to all of us driving to Disneyland as children since 1956. Where is Mateel on that one?

Comment from Catherine Brooks, (10/27/2011, 10:48 AM)

OK. So signs would scare parents. The option is stated "or to cover lead-laced surfaces throughout the 56-year-old theme park. Encapsulation is a valid lead control method. Tchicka is right on.

Comment from T Chicka, (10/27/2011, 10:52 AM)

Roughly how much would it cost for them to just deal with the lead surfaces? They have many newer attractions so I'm also wondering how much of the park is actually contaminated.

Comment from peter gibson, (10/27/2011, 11:32 AM)

Leave business alone !!

Comment from Mark Puckett, (10/27/2011, 3:06 PM)

Noting more then headline grabbing nonsense activism soliciting funding form the masses. The levels they site from wipe testing are established for repeated chronic daily exposures...not annual basis!!...what a load of BS

Comment from Tony Ruckensteiner, (10/30/2011, 1:51 PM)

@peter gibson sound advice lets leave business alone at the peril and risk to the enviroment, workers, and general public. Lets sweep this under the rung like so many other hazards that big businesses have done all to many times already!!!!!

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/31/2011, 7:18 AM)

It wouldn't be all that much effort to put a clear sealant over the lead strips holding the stained glass together, and over the "sword in the stone" - which looks to be less than 10 square feet. Brass doorknobs are easily replaced, or possibly sealed.

Comment from Catherine Brooks, (11/7/2011, 2:51 PM)

Thanks for the positive action suggestion, Tom! This newsletter needs more responders like you.

Comment from Jerry Trevino, (11/9/2011, 11:03 PM)

At the age of 7 to 10, I played with mercury from thermostats. I collected small volumes, poured in my hands, toy trucks, I loved seeing separate and bind together again, just like the Terminator movie. At the age of 12 to 16, I had my Dad, a plumber bring me sheets of lead. I made hundreds roof pipe flashings for vent pipes. I made 2 to 5 per day and sold them to my Dad's company plus other plumbers. I cleaned it, sanded it, solder it with lead solder and used acid flux to clean them. I ate dinner many times while making these flashings. Lead sheets were used as water proof liners in the 1960's to line the bottom of showers before the ceramic tile was installed. I made fishing weights with all the scrap pieces of lead. Since I could not get a job at 12 years of age, I created my own. I know lead is considered dangerous, I know I handled a lot of lead in my early years, as did my brother. My Father is almost 90, my brother is in his late 60's. I guess the health complications my come in later years. I do not mean to be sarcastic, maybe some children are negatively affected by ingesting small minute quantities and some are not. When my people (workers) perform surface preparations or handling old painted surfaces we do perform lead checks and follow OSHA and EPA procedures, I am very aware of lead health issues. I do feel also that some are too quick to judge other businesses. We can save hundreds of children by teaching their parents better parenting skills. We can get more bang for our buck by solving other major child abuse and child neglect issues.

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