SFGate.com, August 12, 2008

Since before Wyatt Earp gambled with Doc Holliday in Tombstone, Arizona, and the rich and famous flocked to Monte Carlo casinos on the Riviera, poker chips have been weighted down with lead, a toxic metal. In the latest showdown under the voter-adopted state anti-toxics law, an Oakland nonprofit with a a long string of notches in its environmental-safety belt two weeks ago forged a clean poker chip agreement with a major manufacturer and 21 casino owners to get the lead out.

Handling the chips exposes dealers and players to the lead, argued researchers at the Center for Environmental Health. Pregnant women who work at the casinos or gamble regularly put their offspring at risk of mental retardation, and the expectant mothers don't even know it, the group's representatives told the gaming industry during a year of negotiation.

Gaming Partners International Corp., or GPI, previously known as Paulson Gaming Supplies, signed the agreement. The company is the market leader in making poker chips for 28 of the 30 largest U.S. casinos, according its Web site. Paulson makes chips in Mexico, Bud Jones in Las Vegas and Bourgogne et Grasset in France.

Research from the Center for Environmental Health found that Paulson poker chips contain as much as 47 percent lead. The manufacture agreed to start making chips that contain no more than 0.005 percent of lead by Nov. 1, 2008. The old leaded poker chips can remain in the casinos, but the gambling establishments must post warnings and advice to wash hands.

Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, requires businesses to keep chemical at safe levels or warn the public. In this case, the agreement's effect will go beyond California's borders. The signatories promised to comply nationwide, including in the country's gambling capital of Las Vegas.

The health advocacy group already has won agreements from manufacturers to eliminate lead from some children's jewelry, candy, talcum powder and plastic rain ponchos, bibs and lunch boxes. Other nonprofits also have worked to educate people about the risks in popular products. Read More »

Posted By: Jane Kay (Email) | Aug 12 at 07:32 AM