Go Go Hamsters - everything you've been told is a lie

The most popular children's toy of Christmas 2009 - the Go Go Hamster - can kill your child. It's official, according to the press. The hamsters contain a mysterious element called antimony which can poison, cause lung cancer and murder a small child to death. The bandwagon is already rolling and has so much momentum it's impossible to stop. The Mirror declares:

Bitterwallet - Go Go Hamsters do not harm your children. Unless they eat them.

While at The Daily Mail:

Bitterwallet - The Daily Mail

And according to The Sun:

"Antimony can be fatal in high doses and make kids sick even in low amounts if inhaled or ingested..."

The result? Danger, panic, upset and a complete lack of professional behaviour from people claiming to be journalists, because not one appears to have researched the topic they're cutting and pasting from the other - we're not just talking the red tops, but the broadsheets and the likes of the BBC, too. The result is the perpetuation of a news story that is misinforming the whole of the UK public.

The drama revolves around a study produced by a US website called GoodGuide, which pulls products apart and tests them to see what chemicals they contain. What's upsetting GoodGuide, at least according to the media, is that Go Go Hamsters contain dangerously high levels of antimony. According to The Telegraph, Dara O’Rourke, from GoodGuide has found antimony at levels of 93 and 106 parts per million, above the "60 parts per million allowed under US regulations". The BBC quotes Professor O'Rourke from GoodGuide, who said antimony "has potential health hazards related to it which, if ingested in high enough levels can lead to cancer, reproductive health and other human health hazards". He's a professor, so this must be true and should go unquestioned by a single journalist.

Cue a brilliant story for the media - the most popular toy under the tree this year is also the most deadly.  Except there are some facts about antimony you need to know about before swallowing this complete and utter bullshit.

For starters, antimony is everywhere. It's used to produce batteries, cable sheathing, matches and solder, and flame-retardant material - in children's clothing, toys, aircraft and seat covers. It's a common element in the production of electronics, and it's used to flameproof glass and pottery. We even drink antimony - it's used to produce the plastic bottles we drink water from - the slight acidity of water causes antimony to leach into the water, but at levels well within safety limits.

According to the Encyclopedia Britainica, there have been reports of antimony poisoning caused by drinking fruit juices that have dissolved the cheap glaze of an enamel container, and in cases of repeated exposure to particular medicines when used to induce vomiting. However "the industrial use of antimony has not appeared to be associated with serious occupational poisoning". In fact there seems to be only one significant case of the public suffering antimony poisoning; seventy people became acutely ill after drinking lemonade containing high levels of antimony - the lemonade had been prepared and left overnight in buckets coated with an enamel containing an antimony-based compound. Fifty-six people were taken to the hospital with burning stomach pains, colic, nausea and vomiting but most recovered within three hours. Nobody died. 15 years ago, antimony was linked to cot death by The Cook Report, but researchers disputed the claims and the findings were dismissed.

In other words, despite the widespread use of antimony in dozens of everyday applications, hardly anybody is ever poisoned by it, and consumers have only ever been poisoned when the antimony has been drawn out of a compound by acid, and then drank. There is simply no evidence of a consumer suffering major illness by handling or even licking an item that contains the chemical. It'd be interesting to see The Sun back up their claim that antimony makes kids sick - we can't find any records of a child suffering harm through this type of exposure.

Yes, Go Go Hamsters are potentially harmful to your children, but only if they eat a whole one and only if they contain the sort of antimony that their stomach acids can leach out, but then there's more chance of them choking to death in the attempt. According to the same US health body that set the safety limits for antimony, the only real risk of adverse health would occur if you fed significant amounts to your child every day for several weeks - not only does your child have to eat one Go Go Hamster, but several of them. The scare stories in the paper about antimony causing lung cancer? That has only been observed to occur in cases where significant quantities of antimony dust were inhaled - there is no such dust to be found in a Go Go Hamster. Why is it even mentioned by the press?

One final concerning with the reporting of this story - in order to create their horror headlines, the media have confused the initial report from GoodGuide - deliberately or accidentally. The US standards concerning "60 parts per million" is specific to a liquid solution, not a solid object. GoodGuide found antimony in the fabric of the toy, a form of antimony that has little-to-zero chance of being hazardous to health. So in fact this type and amount of antimony is not a significant hazard to health at all - GoodGuide themselves seemed to have been embarrassed by the press reaction and published a disclaimer on their blog, pointing out their tests cannot and should not be compared to safety standards because the two are incomparable:

"While GoodGuide considers the presence of any antimony on the surface of a toy to be a concern, we want to clarify that we used a testing methodology to evaluate the toys that is different from the testing methodology incorporated into the federal standards."

Nobody is interested in publishing the facts or even GoodGuide's updated statement because a made-up version with information presented out of context will sell more papers and attract more website hits - another example of churnalism at its finest and a public threat that doesn't and has never existed.


  • Pete S.
    Just like Global Warming hysteria, then.
  • Dan W.
    Antimony is used in the solder paste that is used to fix electronic components to the circuit boards. Only 5% of the paste is antimony. The circuit boards then go through a big oven that melts the solder paste making the electrical connections. Antimony is used with tin to make the solder flow correctly, as lead free (also known as RHoS)is used now since lead has been banned for a few years. The child would need to rip apart the hamster, and start chewing on the circuit board for even the slightest change of being affected, since the antimony at this stage now is under all the components. A child is more likely to choke on the components. Dan Weeks, Wellingborough. (Unemployed, and not connected to the hamster in any capacity)
  • Hack
    F*cking lazy journalists sensationalising bullsh*t as per f*cking usual.
  • Nobby
    Not only can this cause cancer, but if the antimony happens to touch any money, well you know what's going to happen don't you. End of the world.
  • DavtT
    Somebody told me that there is probably more antimony in a real hamster kept in a cage!
  • Adrian
    Paul, You've saved Christmas in our house. Thanks there citizen. Cheers.
  • MickeyB
    Haha Nobby. Good article, though it's a shame the author is incapable of differentiating between 'being' and 'been'. kisskiss
  • ButterMan
    Pete Smith, No, not like manmade climate change. Get your head out of your arse.
  • Mandy B.
    antimony is also used to flameproof materials - cot mattresses being one of them. It's been implicated in SIDS/Cot death - but the media didn't care much about that.
  • ButterMan
    ...adding, feel free to summarise the vidence that climate change isn't happening in a short post like the above. Politicians and (mostly) business have adopted Climate Change as their own, and the political posturing is hiliarious, but the fact is we've fucked the planet up and it's going to be a very interesting century..
  • Nobby
    What happens if you stick them up your ars, like you would do with a normal hamster?
  • My P.
    then you would by law have to register as a pet shop boys tribute act!
  • ButterMan
    So antimony isn't as dangerous as alimony?
  • Marty P.
    Cor Bitterwallet goes all BadScience. You'll be taking on the Anti-Vaxers next! Good on yer
  • Marvin
    Same journalists who invented mans effect on global warming then...
  • bob
    Climate change caused my man is a myth, the only reason the earth is heating (which hasn't even proven as the last few years have been the coldest on record) is because we are at the arse end of an ice age, hence the fact we still have ice at both out poles.
  • dunfyboy
    I saw this on the news this morning/ I stopped paying attention as soon as their "expert" said "if ingested in high enough levels". The same could be said of anything. Eating 14 tons of apples will kill you.
  • johnny c.
    freddie starr ate my go go pet
  • Brian
    Hi, my name is Brian. I own a Num Nums, Chunk and 2 X Pipsqueak. Would any kind BitterWallet reader like to swap a Pipsqueak for a Mr Squiggles? Thanks
  • goon
    thanks brian you made me laugh a lot not many comments do
  • Go M.
    That good news then! I don't have to stop eating my Go Go Pets ;-)
  • Mandy B.
    Gotta love all the anthropomorphic climate change deniers -- they try to link their bad science to everything, even "toxic"-hamsters. lol fools.
  • Suck… r.
    [...] Här är ett inlägg från en brittisk blogg som kommenterar undersökningen som Expressen baserar sitt [...]
  • oliverreed
    Are these still okay to put in a well lubed johnny and shove up your arse?
  • Jules
    Hi Just been chasing links after buying my 2 and 8 year old one each. I was actually looking for advice from someone qualified on this. Not sure if you are or not? Not only have you calmed my mind, you've made an 8 year olds year and made a harassed mum laugh............a lot!! Now the only thing I have to worry about is sourcing the accessories to go with it, so far I'm looking at paying up to 400% more than they were originally on sale for! I'm off to look at the rest of your site, hope it's as entertaining, it's been a long day. Thanks

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