Disneyland's lead poisoning scandal
A nonprofit environmental group has sued Disneyland, saying the theme park exposes children to high levels of lead. The Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation claims that Disneyland needs to do more to protect children in certain problematic areas of the park to comply with California law. Here, a brief guide to the legal battle:
How were these high lead levels found?
Mateel sent inspectors to Disneyland armed with special moist towelettes. The inspectors touched windows, chains, and door knobs in the theme park, then wiped their hands with the towelettes, which were analyzed by a lab to identify traces of lead.
Where were the high lead levels found?
California law requires posted warnings any time lead levels exceed 0.5 micrograms per day — and the tests allegedly showed 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. The group claims it also found problems in stained glass windows in Cinderella's Castle, brass door knobs in Minnie's House in Toontown, and the often-photographed Sword in the Stone statue.
Is lead really so bad for us?
Yes. Prolonged, excessive exposure to lead attacks the nervous and reproductive systems. It also can cause cognitive changes, and increase the risk of cancer.
What do Disney officials say?
They rejected the allegations, saying Disneyland has posted signs, as required by law, warning people about all lead-tainted fixtures and figurines. "We believe that Disneyland Resort is in full compliance with the signage requirements," Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown tells the Los Angeles Times. But Mateel wants the court to force the park to make the signs more prominent, or to cover up tainted fixtures.
Who's winning the PR war over this?
It's unclear. Disney certainly doesn't want visitors thinking that the "goofy" photo in which they're grabbing the Sword in the Stone depicts the exact moment when they were exposed to high levels of lead, says Margaret Hartmann at Jezebel. That's why it's so puzzling that Disneyland didn't just "replace the stuff pronto and avoid the bad press," says Monica Bielanko at Babble. Stop worrying, says Justin Shady at the Orange County Register. "Just go and enjoy the park knowing that everything around you, in Disneyland or otherwise, is slowly killing you."