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Attractions, other sites at Disneyland expose visitors to lead, group says

Environmental group seeks an injunction requiring the park to cover items or post warnings. Disney says it has complied with state law.

October 18, 2011|By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times
  • A Disneyland animation mechanic works on repairing the sword from the "Sword in the Stone" attraction before the park opens in 2010. The attraction is one named by an environmental group as containing excessive levels of lead.
A Disneyland animation mechanic works on repairing the sword from the "Sword… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Dozens of leaded-glass windows and brass rail chains, door knobs and drinking water fountains at some of Disneyland's most popular attractions expose children to high levels of lead, according to an environmental group seeking a court injunction Tuesday to require the amusement park to cover the items or post health warnings.

The Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court in April against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S. Inc., alleging excessive levels of lead in such commonly touched objects as the Sword in the Stone attraction, where Disneyland photographers encourage children to pose while pulling on the sword handle. Other objects include brass door knobs at Minnie's House and stained-glass windows in a door at the entrance to a beauty salon in Cinderella's Castle.

"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 court documents, Disney rejected the allegations in the lawsuit and maintained that it had posted adequate warnings about lead-tainted fixtures and figurines, as required by state law.

Regarding the request for an injunction, Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown said, "We have not seen the papers that we are told are being filed, so we cannot comment specifically. However, we believe that Disneyland Resort is in full compliance with the signage requirements" of state law.

Testing conducted in June and December for Mateel, called wipe testing, aimed to mimic what happens when someone touches lead-tainted items. In those tests, a volunteer wiped his hands with a laboratory version of a moist towelette, then touched windows, brass chains and door knobs throughout the park.

In each case, the volunteer then wiped the palms and fingers of his hands with a second towelette, which was analyzed by an independent laboratory.

The tests found hand lead exposures at the Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan Ride and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride of 1 microgram, 9.75 micrograms and 5.82 micrograms respectively, Mateel said.

A wipe sample taken from a stained-glass Pinocchio window in the dining area of Village Haus restaurant found a lead exposure of 350 micrograms, Mateel said.

Under state law, warnings are required if exposure for average users exceeds 0.5 micrograms per day.

Lead attacks the nervous and reproductive systems, causes cognitive and behavioral changes and increases the risk of cancer.

louis.sahagun@latimes.com

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