A year ago we found out that “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,” according to the L.A. Times.
The Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation filed the lawsuit against Disney. You can read their full report here. It is pretty shocking.
“The lawsuit alleged that various locations in Disneyland and California Adventure contain leaded brass, including hand rails, chains and line dividers, and various items that children are encouraged to play with (such as the Sword in the Stone attraction). It appeared to some that it was filed in part because the target company caters to children and the alleged exposure to lead occurred in the ultimate destination for families and children—Disneyland,” according to Lexology.
Disney denied everything, of course. Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown told the L.A. Times that “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.
That is a lie. I was working at Disneyland, in their safety department, last year. I quit in July of last year when I took a job with an insurance carrier, in risk control. At Disney I was assigned to the hotels. One day I got a phone call from a Disney engineer from the Burbank offices. Apparently he had been assigned to go to the Disneyland hotels and scan the brass surfaces using an XRF gun, which analyzes metal and gives you instant feedback as to the exact metallurgy of whatever surface is scanned. The engineer told me his XRF gun was worth $60,000!
I was not told anything else about the assignment. I looked online and found out that Disney had been sued before, for lead content in brass toys and other retail goods. You can read about that here. There was a settlement with many retailers and manufacturers that set a limit on lead content in brass, at 1.5%.
So what is the connection between brass and lead? I wondered the same thing and found out that when you make brass it is common to add some lead, to make it more malleable. The lead content is limited, as I referenced in my last paragraph, to 1.5%.
Here’s the danger: “Since lead has a lower melting point than the other constituents of the brass, it tends to migrate towards the grain boundaries in the form of globules as it cools from casting. The pattern the globules form on the surface of the brass increases the available lead surface area which in turn affects the degree of leaching. In addition, cutting operations can smear the lead globules over the surface. These effects can lead to significant lead leaching from brasses of comparatively low lead content,” according to Wikipedia.
What that article means is that lead molecules go to the surface of brass products and that is a very real problem when you are talking about children. The toxic affect that lead has on children is so severe that California has an entire agency devoted to this.
The engineer I accompanied took readings of brass surfaces all over the Disneyland hotels. We found high levels of lead, beyond the allowed state standard, all over the place. What was really disconcerting is that while we expected to find hot brass in old surfaces it also turned up in remodeled areas. In fact we toured the new big dollar penthouse suites at the Disneyland hotel and found hot brass there – and we ran into the lady who designed the suites. I told her what was up and she was shocked. Apparently she ordered a lot of the brass fittings at Home Depot. Disney should have checked these products in advance!
The engineer I worked with also told me that the brass hand rail at the California Adventure Park’s new Little Mermaid ride had tested for high levels of lead as well.
Are kids at Disney in danger? Well, here is the problem. If they touch the brass surfaces that are high in lead and then suck on their fingers, or eat food without washing their hands, they can ingest the lead. Once the lead is in your body, it may get pushed out via the kidneys but it may also settle in your bones and fat. The body unfortunately thinks lead is calcium. None of this is good news, particularly for kids.
It is true that toxicity has a lot to do with dose and duration. But kids whose families have Disney passes may go there a lot – maybe once a week. They would be at the most danger of lead poisoning.
I have no idea what has happened to this case. I tried but could not find any recent articles. I am dismayed that Disney appears to be trying to cover this up. I can tell you that when I filed my report with Disney’s executives I was told to delete it from my computer, after transferring it to a secret server. I might be one of perhaps a dozen people that know the truth. And now you do too!