Study: Lead levels in kids' meal toys pose landfill contamination risk

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PITTSBURGH — Some toys included in kids’ meals at fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Burger King may contain lead levels high enough to cause landfill contamination, according to a Robert Morris University study.

Published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health Sciences, the “Fast Food Premium Toys as a Significant Source of Lead and Chromium to the Environment” study was conducted by RMU environmental science students and professors.

Out of 35 electronic kids’ meal toys distributed by McDonald's and Burger King between 1997 and 2015, an analysis found that 22 “contained lead in concentrations above permitted federal limits and enough to classify them as hazardous waste.”

The most recent toy analyzed for the study and found to contain the high lead levels was a McDonald's “Minions” toy from 2013.

Over 220 million Happy Meals are sold annually, according to the study, which calls electronic fast food toys a “previously unreported and significant source of … lead and chromium to the environment.” The study recommends that the toys be treated as electronic waste and disposed of appropriately.

“With these toys, the small amount of leached material doesn't seem like much until you realize the vast number of them that are out there,” RMU environmental science professor Daniel Short, the study's lead author, said in a news release.

Low levels of the toxic metals barium, cadmium, chromium and mercury, and significant levels of lead were found in toys during the study. The study concluded that the lead likely comes from solder in printed wire boards.

Channel 11 News reached out to McDonald’s and Burger King for comment, but has not heard back.