The Associated Press has just released results from an investigation it conducted on lead and cadmium levels in drinking glasses depicting movie and comic book characters including Wonder Woman, Superman, and the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz.
The investigation shows the glasses exceed federal limits for lead in children’s products by up to 1,000 times, according to laboratory testing commissioned by the AP.
“The decorative enamel on the superhero and Oz sets – made in China and purchased at a Warner Brothers store in Burbank [CA] – contained between 16 percent and 30.2 percent lead. The federal limit on children’s products in 0.03 percent,” the AP report claims. “The same glasses also contained relatively high levels of even more dangerous cadmium, though there are no federal limits on that toxic metal in design surfaces,” it continues.
“Federal regulators have worried that toxic metals rubbing onto children’s hands can get in their mouths,” according to the report. Brands on those glasses include: Coca-Cola, Walt Disney, Burger King and McDonald’s.
The Associated Press carried out the testing in response to a McDonald’s recall of 12 million glasses this past summer because cadmium escaped from designs that portrayed four characters from the latest Shrek movie. The AP has been conducting and ongoing investigation into dangerous metals in children’s products.
ToyTestingLab of Rhode Island, which performed the tests, found every Oz and superhero glass tested exceeded the government lead limit. Here’s a sampling:
- The Tin Man by 1,006 times
- The Lion by 827 times
- Dorothy by 770 times
- Batman by 750 times
- The Green Lantern by 677 times
- Superman by 617 times
- Wonder Woman by 533 times
“I was extremely surprised by the levels,” Paul Perotti, ToyTestingLab’s director told the AP. He said that he had seen glasses that have failed to meet government standards, “but not 30 percent lead.”
Warner Brothers responded to the AP report claiming “it’s generally understood that the primary consumer for these products is an adult, usually an adult collector.” However, as the AP noted, “the superhero glasses are sold alongside kids’ T-shirts with similar images and a school lunch box” on the Warner Brothers website.
The AP report says that it’s up to federal regulators from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to decide whether or not the superhero and Wizard of Oz glasses are “children’s products” – which would make them subject to strict lead limits. If the Commission concludes they’re not, the lead levels in the glasses would be legal.
The Coca-Cola Company announced Sunday evening that it is voluntarily recalling 88,000 glasses “over concerns regarding the mainly red glass in a four-glass set,” the AP reports. Coca Cola says its recall is for “quality reasons.” The red Coca Cola glasses were shown to shed three times more cadmium than the Puss in Boots Shrek glass – the glass that worried federal regulators the most last summer.
“A lot of toxic metal in glass does not necessarily mean a health hazard,” the AP points out. “Most of the 35 lab-tested glasses were safe under normal conditions – their decoration shed very little or no detectable amounts of lead or cadmium. […] Instead, the concern is low levels of exposure over weeks or months, whether kids are also eating a sandwich or licking their fingers.”
Exposure to lead has long been known as a serious health risk, and can lead to delays in mental and physical development especially in young children. Recent research into cadmium suggests that it, too, can damage children’s brains. Cadmium, a red pigment crucial to the color wheel, is also a known carcinogen that can damage the kidneys and bones.
Following a slew of problems with products manufactured in China, Congress passed strict limits in 2008 that effectively ban lead in any children’s product.
Ironically, as the AP reports, when it conducted an initial investigation into lead this past January, results revealed that some Chinese manufacturers were substituting cadmium for the banned lead in children’s jewelry. That finding led to the current McDonald’s recall of Shrek glasses, and the current testing for cadmium that has now put the dangers from lead rightly back in the spotlight.
Photo courtesy of jasmic via flickr