Saturday, May 27, 2017

UPDATED: Fidget Spinners: Are they Safe?

Does it seem like every child (and half of the adults) in America has a fidget spinner? Fidgets are a tool used by educators to help kids who need to wiggle or move in order to keep their body moving so their brains can be open to learning. Now that nearly everyone has one or more of these spinning toys, some schools are starting to ban them as they become a distraction.

But what about safety? Two weeks ago I read a harrowing story on facebook about a kid who got part of the bearing from his fidget spinner stuck on his finger and after hours and hours at the hospital, he had to be put completely under to get it removed (finally!).

Now, while all of this is important, Tamara and I care about specifically about lead and other toxins in the materials used to make spinners. Luckily, Tamara was recently able to raise enough money to rent an XRF for a weekend of lead testing and we got together to test some fidget spinners.

You won't believe what we found!

Or maybe you will. After we found lead in the paint of the glass insert of a baby sippy cup, nothing surprises me any more!

Here is the video of Tamara and I testing the spinners:

Before we made the video we actually tested all three of those spinners. The green and purple three-pronged spinners tested negative for lead, cadmium and mercury but the light up fidget spinner tested positive!

Light Up Fidget Spinner Test Results

The BACK tested POSITIVE for lead at 1711 +/-63 PPM and POSITIVE for mercury at 52 +/-20 PPM 

In previous tests not in the video, the side of the spinner tested positive for lead around 166 +/-17 PPM and positive for mercury at 26 +/-11 PPM. The front of the spinner tested positive for lead around 5000 PPM. 

For reference, the Consumer Product Safety Commission limit for lead in items intended for children (kids age 13 and under) is 100 PPM for substrate and 90 PPM for a coating like paint.

This spinner tested between 166 - 5000 PPM lead - that's a whole lot more than it should have!

Is your kid's fidget spinner lead safe?

Unfortunately because most fidget spinners finding their way into kids hands are not name brand spinners but cheap no-name items made in China, it's hard to track who has or doesn't have safe spinners without specifically being able to test your exact spinner.

UPDATE: Even more lead than we thought in the light up fidget spinner.

Since this blog post originally ran, Tamara was able to do more testing on the light up spinner after her son played with it for just a minute before it conveniently broke apart (convenient for us - not so much if you actually wanted to keep the spinner!) - which made all the individual components really easy to test.

Watch her test it here:

Please go here to read all of Tamara's commentary on this but my big takeaways from this video are:
  • These spinners are NOT durable - they are likely to break very easily from normal use which makes any of the leaded and mercury containing parts easily accessible to your child.
  • There was more than 19,500 PPM lead on the lead solder used on the battery. This heavily leaded component was immediately available to be touched once the spinner broke. This piece is also really small and could be easily swallowed - because it is attached to a semi-exposed battery, this piece could KILL a child if swallowed (read more here about the dangers of children swallowing button batteries)
  • Several components of this particular spinner are also high in mercury - containing 1562 PPM mercury - which is a TOXIC amount of mercury. Based on the information I had available, this is likely more mercury than is present in a CFL lightbulb - which the CDC warns is extremely dangerous once dropped due to the level of mercury present.

UPDATE II: Brass Fidget Spinner Test Results Shocking

Since this blog post originally ran on May 28, 2017, Tamara was able to test four additional fidget spinners and an assortment of fidget cubes.

All fidget cubes tested to date have tested non-detect for lead, cadmium or mercury. If you or your child are looking for a fidget toy, so far I think these are the safest from a heavy metals, choking, and getting-things-stuck-on-your-finger perspective.

Three different black three pronged plastic fidget spinners have tested non-detect for lead, cadmium and mercury. These join two other similar fidget spinners which tested lead safe.

What really surprised us, though, was a brass fidget spinner from YoMaxxer: 
The brass fidget spinner tested looks like this one (though the one that tested positive is distributed under the brand name YoMaxxer, it's possible these fidgets are coming from the same factory and are identical). 

Watch Tamara talk about the results of the XRF test on this spinner:

Did you catch that? There is 42,800 (+/-1600) PPM lead and 727 (+/-119) PPM cadmium in that spinner. AND that it was able to test positive with a leadcheck swab means that lead was able to rub off of the spinner - it isn't just trapped inside  - which means as you or your child play with it, that lead can also rub off onto their hands. This spinner is bad news - if you have one, I would get rid of it ASAP.

How to choose a safe spinner

Since we are still in the early stages of testing, I think the safest option is to avoid the spinners altogether if your kids are not yet addicted to them! 

The good news is though, that all fidget cubes tested to date have tested non-detect for lead, cadmium or mercury. If you or your child are looking for a fidget toy, so far I think these are the safest from a heavy metal, chocking and getting-things-stuck-on-your-finger perspective.

If you must have a spinning thing, so far we have had good luck with hard plastic, ceramic bearing three-point fidget spinners like this one testing lead, cadmium and mercury free. I would AVOID, any spinner that is painted or has a metallic finish, is made of brass, or lights up. Of course, I can't promise that yours will be safe but so far we have seen several spinners of this style consistently test lead free. Be sure you talk to your kids about taking it apart, though, so that this doesn't happen to them.

If you want to try making your own, I have a tutorial for making your own DIY fidget spinner with Legos. Check it out here: 

I also like this DIY Lego fidget spinner from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls that would be a great option if your kids are old enough not to swallow Legos or put them in their mouths.

This tutorial from Red Ted Art for making a fidget spinner with coins and cardboard is a good option as well.


THANK YOU to Lacy Cooke for covering this on Inhabitat. Read her story: Researchers Find Dangerous Amounts of Lead in Fidget Spinners

I will keep this post updated as we gather more information and test more spinners. We anticipate being able to do another round of testing June 16-18, 2017. If you want to send us a spinner to test, please visit this page for instructions.

About the Author:

Carissa is a green lifestyle advocate and mom of two active boys. The owner and lead writer for Creative Green Living, she is also the author of Beautiful Smoothie Bowls (Skyhorse, May 2017). Her goal is to empower families to make easy projects and healthier choices that are beautiful and delicious! Follow her on PinterestInstagramTwitter or join the Creative Green Living community group.
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  1. Hi Carissa!I just purchased a light up spinner today for my daughter who has Autism and is currently undergoing chelation therapy for heavy metal toxicity. Her lead levels are extremely high. I purchased the LED Light Series Omega Ultimate Spinner at Academy Sports. Do you by chance know if this particular spinner contains lead and/or mercury? I'm trying to figure out a way to take it away from her now. Wish me luck! Thanks so, so much Carissa, I really, really appreciate your time and help!

    1. I would definitely try to get it away from her. We are doing another round of Fidget spinner testing in June. If it was inexpensive, would you want to send us a duplicate of your daughter's spinner and a $10 donation toward renting the instrument? I say a duplicate because we would like to be able to take it apart but I'd hate to break hers - if we find out it is safe we would love to have her keep using it! Let me know what you think.

    2. I would love to get my little girls fidget spinner tested too. I have two.. Can I send a donation and have theirs tested too

    3. Yes! The instructions for how to send us fidget spinners for testing are here:

  2. Oh yeah, where can I get the spinner in your video that doesn't contain lead or mercury? Thanks again!

    1. The two spinners in the video were given to us. I am hesitant to recommend and spinner with a metallic finish because those can be high lead.

      Fidget cubes consistently tested safe in subsequent rounds of testing:

      These plain fidget spinners also consistently tested lead safe:

  3. I admit my son dislikes these fidgets so much. He finds them annoying. That said I was intrigued by them though the noise they make isn't pleasant on the long run. Overall I think is is trend we will pass on.

  4. Hi, Tamara! I am wondering if you tell me what the chances of a hard plastic spinner like the black ones pictured, but containing LED lights in the circles containing lead would be? The body and material is similar to black fidgets but it does contain the lights on three sides.

    1. We have not tested that particular style yet but because one of the highest lead and mercury containing fidgets we have found so far is an LED light up style, we are currently advising parents to avoid those.

      If you would like to send us your fidget (or a duplicate) for testing in a couple weeks, we can let you know for sure if yours has lead. The instructions are here:

  5. Brass often uses lead to help it machine better. No surprise if the fidget spinners were made of brass. If kids need to fidget with something, this is a great alternative and they get to learn at the same time:

    1. That's a good suggestion. Over the weekend I designed a LEGO fidget as well if you need a nontoxic option.

  6. Makes me wonder if the batteries in the LED ones aren't the reason behind the high mercury content. My little one has the LED and 4 other spinners, none of which are painted. None of the holes are big enough for him to stick his finger in, which makes me wonder, just how in the world that child got his stuck! He also knows better than to stick it in his mouth.

    1. It tested positive for mercury w/o the batteries in it. I think it's in the paint

  7. What would you think about copper ones?

    1. My question would be: is it actually copper? Or just "copper-look"?

  8. I just bought a ton of fidget spinners from China for my son because they are so much cheaper and we like testing the different kinds, but now I am thoroughly worried about the lead. It takes a good month for them to arrive, which is past your testing date... too bad... I would've totally sent these to you for testing. :(

    1. Hopefully we will have more clarity on types of spinners that test safe/unsafe by then. I ordered some cheap Chinese spinners for testing as well. Hopefully they get here on time.

  9. Do you know if the fidget spinners sold at 7/11 are safe? They are plastic with NO lights. They are $7. They have NO company name on them & are made in China.

    1. I don't know. The spinners we think are at the highest risk of lead contamination are ones made of metal, those that have a metallic finish (like mardi gras beads) or those that light up but we still need to test more to be able to say more definitively which ones are safe. If you want to send us one for testing, we would love that!

      Instructions for how to send us a fidget spinner for testing are here:

  10. How about the 608sr.metalic ball bearing?

    1. Most bearings are testing negative for lead but there are some that have tested positive

  11. Did you actually tested the spinner from Amazon: ? I want to get one that you tested and it's safe. Thank you!

    1. The tricky part about the 3 pronged plastic spinners is they all look the same and they rarely have brand information on them.

      We did test one from "hand fidgetz" (that had a sticker with that brand name on it) which appears to be this one:

      I also bought two spinners at Michaels that looked like this - a purple one in a clear plastic case and a blue one in a cardboard box that were lead free, too.


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