Lead Contaminated Toys – for free – from Contra Costa First 5

Did you think you’d ever see a children’s agency in the 21st century give out thousands of toys containing lead contamination, by their own admission, at levels over 3 times the federal limit? Well that’s the case, as Contra Costa First 5 admitted to doing just that.

Ever see an official press release or newspaper story about this dangerous health crisis there in Contra Costa so that the average citizen would be informed and able to protect their children? We could not find a single one.

But there’s even more to find alarming about the First 5 commissions, as here are some ways they have very recently spent funds around the rest of the state:

– $1.3 million for “breastfeeding assistance”
– $100,000 per construction grant to build private child care centers
– $40,000 grants to pay people to drive around and give away used baby clothes
– Grants for classes such as “Learning the ropes of Kindergarten recess”

For more information on how First 5 Commissions have been spending funds in ways we feel voters did not intend, please visit www.flopped5.org


  1. Tom says

    A check on these yahoos monthly meeting shows no comment about the controversy – our government tax dollars so hard at work hiding the incompetence of its workers. Also – enough with the crank phone calls First 5 people. Grow some cajones and post your comments here in public, be transparent and all that s$%^ you garble to us minions about.

  2. Anna Anonymous says

    Replacement toy is the same toy just no lead. They mixed up the good ones with poison ones. I worked at one of the centers where they recalled toys. It made me very confused why they did not change what they looked like. How are people going to know the one which is ok? I thought it was bad. Maybe that is how come they do not show the picture of the Tigos, then you would know they are the same. Also, my boss told me they did get insurance money. Very sad. very bad.

    • JenniferM says

      If what Anna says is true, what kind of leadership would decide to put out a replacement toy that was even a little bit identical to a poisoned toy?

      They have to have known there were thousands of poisoned toys out there when they were making the decision on what new toy to re-distribute.

      I have worked in child care in Contra Costa and have heard Sean Casey speak a couple times. The lack of comment from First 5 since Sean posted here has been a true disappointment. It’s just completely impossible to defend this situation.

      It’s also an embarrassment to our work with kids that no one seems like they are taking real leadership when the times get tough. First 5 takes a lot of credit when they are doling out dollars. They have done some good but they also have given a lot of money to their board members and to me that is wrong.

      So if merging the good and bad toys is true, I agree with others that an official press release is the right thing to do to recall all of them again, and this time louder. Doing nothing is no way to handle it.

  3. says

    For anyone wanting there to be some action on bringing this clearly arrogant government agency to some level of transparency and justice, here is the link to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s site online form for reporting a lead contaminated product:


    Because their form is a little confusing, on the description of the injury, I put in links to all the web pages involved, entered a little fake demographic data when they wanted specific information about which children were damaged (but I explained that it was fake data since the data is currently unknown), and made some guesses on other items and dates.

    They still accepted the report and you can submit it anonymously.

    The poor kids in the county deserve protection. If the spine less officials, the spine less media and/or the spine less board of Commissioners do nothing, at least some people who actually care about ALL of the kids, and not just the ones in their own First 5 funded programs, can do some good.

  4. Tom says

    You people at First 5 Contra Costa broke Federal law and state law and so far no news about it. You are clearly a posturing dude, Mr. Casey, so if you want to talk to a pissed off taxpayer about your illegal activities and how I’d like to be the first to kick your butt out of this county, my number is 925-212-4032.

    • DonJ says

      LOL! Love the hyperbole. It’s not like people who give their phone numbers out would actually kick this guy’s butt. Still it’s a nice image. People who are willing to poison kids to keep the money coming in should be booted out of the county. I bet he won’t call you, but thanks for the laugh man.

  5. Carol says

    As I see it: perverse, sadistic & criminally negligent. Where’s the conscience? They clearly tried to hide it and I can’t see any reason other than for the money. Seems to me they rationalized that so what, it was only in the poor areas, no one will complain.

    • TJ from Concord says

      Pathetic, with emphasis on “pathos” – just sick. These people clearly broke Federal law, and since this article came out, they appear to be hiding but for what their stupid Executive Director said here in the comments section. We can help him now? Moron; clearly the Peter Principle in action.

      I checked around on the links and this agency has not bothered to respond to the comments about them having broken several laws. Government employee hubris; just wait until you have no more money to buy off the press and your “community partners”, Mr. Casey.

      Supervisor Mitchoff is on your Commission, and so are two physicians, and this is all your agency has to say for yourselves?

      So Board of Directors of First 5 Contra Costa, here’s a suggestion:

      Kick whoever made these nincompoop decisions to the curb, in all the ways that you can, and then, perhaps, if it’s not too much to ask, issue a proper press release so us little people can help you big important people reduce the continuing poison risk to our county’s kids. Basic health and safety, it’s all we ask.

  6. Linda B says

    I have seen a full page First 5 CCC ad in the Times. It was some years ago and it was some kind of big thank you list. Wouldn’t it have been a reasonable action for the First 5 commission to take out a full page ad to let the community know about the lead?

    If they could afford a full page ad just to say thank you to people, it seems to me they could have afforded a large one to warn the public about a high level of poison they distributed throughout the county. From what I read here and elsewhere, it seems they were flat out irresponsible and there is just no excuse for it.

  7. says

    Due to the rash of news reports in 2007 about lead in children’s toys made in China, First 5 Contra Costa proactively asked the Center for Environmental Health to test both versions of our Tigo early learning kits for lead contaminants. While the toys and educational materials inside the kit were determined to be safe – including blocks, beads, crayons, books, Play-Doh and a puppet – test results from the independent laboratory revealed that some of the fabric in the Tigo carrying cases contained elevated levels of lead.
    Tigo kits were primarily distributed by First 5-funded school readiness programs, home visiting programs, and the First 5 Centers in Antioch, Bay Point, Concord, Pittsburg, Richmond and San Pablo. A small number were distributed in Martinez and Brentwood. Kits were given to families who signed up and participated in multiple classes. They were not randomly given away.
    On November 21, 2007, First 5 Contra Costa halted all Tigo kit distribution and then worked with our distribution partners to implement a recall plan. Our activities included sending out information to the media, elected officials, the county’s health department, and organizations who work in the communities these bags where distributed in. We also circulated 20,000 flyers in English and Spanish at elementary schools, WIC offices, health clinics, and home visiting programs in the communities where children had received Tigo kits. We set up eight recall collection sites in the parts of the county where the kits were distributed. Most important, families who received the kit also received phone calls and letters alerting them to the recall.
    Twenty percent of the bags were returned to us. As a point of reference, according to experts interviewed by the Center for Environmental Health, only a fraction of consumers actually return recalled products. They cite Mattel’s return rate for its recalled toys around 6%. Getting people to return recalled items is challenging, so any attention you can bring to this issue is welcome. More information about the recall can be found on our website, http://www.firstfivecc.org.
    I am always open to talking with anyone who has concerns or suggestions regarding our programs. If the person who made the original post on this issue would like to call me, at (925) 771-7300, I’m happy to talk further.

    Sean Casey
    Executive Director
    First 5 Contra Costa

    • says

      We are going to skip the chit chat and get into the nuts and bolts of the information before us.

      First, Contra Costa First 5’s (unconfirmed) 20% recall rate still means about 5,200 lead contaminated kits, bags, whatever you want to call them, are still out there. We believe it is nothing but outrageous that Contra Costa First 5 did not issue an official public press release; this is made even more obnoxious by the fact that, at some point, Contra Costa First 5 must have realized that the recall numbers were low and could have taken greater reasonable steps to increase the likelihood of more retrievals.

      Yet they did not, and further, as Don pointed out previously, now we’d additionally like to know if Contra Costa First 5 submitted and received an insurance settlement for the tainted kits – that’s important information for an inquiring public.

      Look, why do we believe that had Contra Costa First 5 told the public at large, whom it supposedly serves, there would not be 5,000 contaminated units out there?

      Well, first, common sense suggests that other people might then have kept an eye out, do you not think? And how about, instead of using data from the same testing service where Contra Costa First 5 got the kits tested, we use data on recalls that is perhaps more relevant and trustworthy, from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) itself – the place where we believe Contra Costa First 5 should have without a doubt submitted product recall information, but admittedly did not.

      Here is some of their data: “the effectiveness rate of traditional CPSC product recalls in FY 1996-1997 was 16-18 percent, while a 53-60 percent participation rate was achieved in “fast track” recalls.” (http://www.productsafetyletter.com/news/5649-1.html)

      Contra Costa First 5’s reported recall rate of 20% is slightly above the rate of 16-18%, but it is well below what is known to be possible, a rate of 53 to 60%. In an affluent and educated area such as Contra Costa, one would think a larger recall rate would be possible should people have been provided more facts about the situation, so that a faster track could have been attempted, but yet, here it is, now year 5.

      We believe that had Contra Costa First 5 actually been willing to disclose the problem to the public at large, the recall retrieval rate would have been higher, perhaps much higher. Again, as we have said elsewhere, it is our belief that Contra Costa First 5 was negligent in this matter, and with a full-fledged medical doctor, Dr. Michael Zwerdling, M.D., as Chair, we feel there is very little excuse for the ongoing muted and defensive response. Physicians, like no one else, understand the dramatic impact of lead poisoning and the importance of intervention.

      We also believe that Contra Costa First 5’s repeated references to having distributed the kits only to what seem to be low income areas perhaps is intended to give the message to those in more affluent areas that they should not care so much about this situation. We also feel it is hypocrisy to attempt to minimize this situation as only having impacted a small group of people when those are the very people Contra Costa First 5 is supposed to be serving.

      Like Mattel did, since their lead infested dolls were brought up here as an item of comparison, we feel Contra Costa First 5 should have shouted about this crisis from the rooftops and should have enlisted the support and help of everyone back in 2007.

      Instead, as a local resident who wrote to flopped5.org said, Contra Costa First 5 audaciously waited until years later, and only when their back was put up against the wall, only then did they request assistance from the public to solve the problem; moreover, they did with a tone suggesting that somehow it is “they” who are the victim requiring assistance. In contrast, we believe that it is the children who are the only ones who could be the victims here, with potentially permanent damage simply because a public agency appears, as we believe, to have ignored their duty to the public.

      Finally, Contra Costa First 5 announced their perspective on a blog instead of seeking appropriate press time from the local newspaper and through official press releases. They appear to receive a lot of other coverage from their local paper, now don’t they, so, where is that newspaper now? How much per year does Contra Costa First 5 pay them in advertising? These are the questions we feel residents and officials should be asking in this situation.

    • Beth Ward says

      Mr. Casey:

      While I appreciate that you have taken the time to respond here, I feel I must tell you that I believe that Contra Costa First 5 has violated the federal “Consumer Product Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2064(b).” as it states that “Manufacturers, distributors, importers, and retailers (“firms” or individually “firm”) must report a potentially hazardous product to the CPSC immediately, according to section 15(b)”.

      They say more here: http://www.cpsc.gov/businfo/reportwhen.html

      In my view, that clearly means you all at First 5. I believe you are in deep doo doo here – you were supposed to report it immediately. I hope you have set aside a good bit for the lawsuits that these poor kids will now likely bring because you all felt you were above the law.

    • Tom says

      IMO: Criminal Negligence and Hubris, and in total denial to think that us average people would just buy the PR spin attempted here. Mr. Casey appears to be operating on the belief that no one will question the First 5 spin on the situation – wrong. I’m thinking you must be the guy who made the dumb and/or illegal decisions in the first place. I can’t believe your board let you make these public statements all by yourself.

    • says

      Federal lead limits are now 100 ppm, so these kits now have up to 21 times the federal limit. When the feds reduced the level, did anyone at Contra Costa First 5 ever think, “Wow, now that we know that even very small amounts could have a dangerous impact, we should do more to see if we can’t collect more of the kits? Obviously not.

      Official CPSC Press Release

    • Lou Lambert says

      It took me two whole days to read through the materials on the flopped website. Lots of good stuff there and mainly I want to tell you all to check out this guy Casey’s bio:

      Here we got a guy with 2 masters degrees from Berkeley. One is in Public Health, which should of mattered here you’d think when caring about kids and lead, and then the numbskull wrote this drivel.

      I bet one of those masters degrees was a booby prize for failing out of a doctoral program. Let me guess, I bet it was the degree in Public Health.

      Figure out ways to help you fix it? – what a total dumbass. You just have to be the idiot who decided that you would rather commit brain damage assault on little kids than take some publicity heat. We probably would have forgave you if you all were straight up on it, but with this story I think you should fry. in public – – – and in hell, though that will be up to God, but I think I would win that bet on if He throws you into that sort of pit.

      From my eyeballs, you are responsible here in knowingly hurting little children. Shame on you Mr. Sean Casey, and any other people who decided it was a good idea to not tell the whole public

  8. Don says

    Glad to see this story somewhere! Here’s an idea about figuring out how many are still out there. As a business guy, I would have filed an insurance claim and the insurance company would have made me do a physical count of the ones recovered, so if they filed an insurance claim for the toys, they would have had to do a physical count and that count would be on the insurance claim paperwork.

  9. Tom says

    Where’s the CCTimes reporting on this story? They’re clearly negligent as well if they do not report on it.

    Unbelievable. This just proves that people in government can become just as corrupt as anyone on Wall Street. They’ll let thousands of kids be exposed to poisonous lead just to keep the money coming in. Loving social workers, my butt – power hungry bureaucrats, more like it.

    Who approved this dimwitted recall? Those board members should be signing their resignation letters.

  10. Beth Ward says

    Bill, this is just plain creepy; it’s not just mission creep. I know some organizations who wish they could get First 5 funds, but it seems all kind of predestined. It seems that commissioners get at least 25% of the funds and big local nonprofits seem to be getting the rest.

    I recommend you all read that website in total. They have documents going back decades on bad behavior in the First 5 agencies. It’s time for a change, here in Contra Costa and state wide. The complete idiot(s) who had anything to do with hiding this lead contamination should be kicked out. Any excuse for not issuing a broad press release could be good enough to justify not reporting the recall.

    California cannot afford this kind of waste and mismanagement. Send the funds to Medi-Cal, by all means.

    • Beth Ward says

      I mea there is no excuse that could be good enough for not issuing a broad press release – kick the bum(s) out who thought that hiding lead contamination was a good idea.

  11. says

    First 5 Contra Costa has posted some dates. The testing occurred in 2007 but that means it’s been over 4.5 years that they knew about it and did not issue a widely distributed press release around the county. The Contra Costa newspaper, if they knew about it, did not publish any kind of announcement – ask yourselves why, if they give a crap about kids, that they did not make sure every kid in the county had a real opportunity to avoid contact with the bags – little kids suck on colorful toys, bags, whatever – so what if the contents did not have lead – we’re talking up to 3.5 times the federal level.
    > Did they tell the county poison control about it?
    > What about the state or the federal public health and product safety orgs?
    > Why is there NO photo of the lead contaminated bag on the website so people can see which one is poisonous (assuming they replaced them as they said they did)?

    Don’t think the messenger is the “bad guy” here. This would have been a concerted and conscious effort to avoid disclosing this information widely.

    for more on the First 5 commissions, check out http://www.flopped5.org

  12. says

    Total Mission creep. Give e’m an inch and they spend 5X. And on what? Crap. There should not be a prop that does not have some sunshine and sunset clause.