Red Vines Black Licorice Recalled: Elevated Levels of Lead

American Licorice Company has voluntarily recalled all of its 1 pound bags of black licorice with a “best by” date of February 14, 2013 following testing by California health officials which found elevated levels of lead.  The testing revelead that black licorice candy could have as much lead as 0.33 parts per million (ppm), resulting in a dose of up to 13.2 micrograms of lead per serving.

For reference, the California Department of Public Health states that the recommendation is that children under 6 years of age consume no more than 6.0 micrograms of lead per day, and the level for which a Proposition 65 warning is required is 0.5 micrograms per day for lead as a reproductive toxicant.

Lead is toxic. Mild lead poisoning is associated with hyperactivity, irritability, sleeplessness, lack of concentration, behavioral problems and learning disabilities. Persistent neurological impairment can follow even mild episodes of lead poisoning. More information is available on this website and also at the  California Department of Public Health.

Consumers can return the bags to the retailer from which they were purchased for a full refund.

So far, no explanation for why this batch of candy had elevated levels of lead.  The company indicates that “[s]afety is the number one priority for [the] company.”

June Junk Claim #3 – Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Dish Soap Not So Clean As It Contains 1,4-Dioxane

June Junk Claim #3 is Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap and the company’s claim that the products are “always EARTH FRIENDLY.”

Mrs. Meyer’s products are sold and marketed as “green” products. The packaging is retro inspired cute.

But, the thing is, they are not as eco-friendly as you think. For example, the Dish Soap was found to have high levels of the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane. In fact, according to testing commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), Mrs. Meyers’ Clean Day Dish Soap had the highest levels of 1,4-dioxane in the group of products tested. The levels in the Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap were 204 parts per million (ppm), ten times higher than any other similar product in the study.

1,4-dioxane is a by-product of the ethoxylation process. Ethoxylation is used to make certain ingredients milder and change solubility and foaming properties. It involves the addition of petroleum-derived ethylene oxide. You’ll find 1,4-dioxane in products with ethoxylated ingredients, usually identified by the “eth” – such as sodium laureth sulfate. Several “eth” ingredients are derived from natural sources – such as coconut – so you’ll find carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane in a number of products that claim to be derived from natural ingredients.

Unfortunately, the ethoxylation process results in a contaminant, 1,4-dioxane. So those allegedly naturally derived ingredients can have a carcinogence contaminant that is not identified on the ingredient label.

And Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Dish Soap has it.

I don’t know if using the product poses a health risk. Since it is a rinse off product intended for use on dishes, I wouldn’t think that there is much dermal exposure (exposure through the skin) at all. Even if used as a hand soap I doubt there is any significant dermal exposure. And exposure from inhalation is probably minimal too.

But, the presence of carcinogenic 1,4-dixoane as a result of using petroleum derived ethylene oxide doesn’t really seem earth friendly to me.

Cadmium Prompts CPSC Recall of McDonald’s Shrek Forever After Promotional Glasses

You pull in to the drive through at McDonald’s and you place your order. And then you ask for some cadmium on the side.

What? You don’t want cadmium when you go to McDonald’s? Well, then don’t order the French fries (just so you know, fries generally have 0.06 parts per million or “ppm” cadmium). (For reference and before you panic, low levels of cadmium are found in many items we eat. But the most common source of cadmium exposure for Americans is cigarette smoke.)

And don’t buy the new promotional Shrek Forever After glasses at McDonald’s, because, well, the painted decorations have cadmium.

Yep, that’s right. Cadmium.

Not what you wanted or expected, is it?

But it is true. And today the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a voluntary recall of those promotional Shrek Forever After glasses. 12 million of those glasses.

I was one of the people to submit the information to the CPSC. I used my Thermo Fisher Scientific Niton XRF analyzer to test all of the current promotional Shrek Forever After glasses – Donkey, Shrek, Fiona and Puss in Boots. And I found cadmium. The cadmium levels varied with the paint color. Historically, cadmium has been used in paint to get yellow to deep red hues.

In the Fiona glass, I detected 1,049 ppm cadmium in the baby’s face. I detected no cadmium in Fiona’s dress (at the sleeve) but did find 10,900 ppm chromium.

In Puss in Boots, I detected cadmium at 1,378 ppm in the red pillow on which Puss rests, 1,048 ppm cadmium in the orange part of Puss, and 1,575 ppm cadmium in the yellow lion on which the Gingerbread Man sits. The Puss figure on the back (in the orange) was 1,707 ppm cadmium and 3,721 ppm chromium.

I detected 1,020 ppm in the green used on the Shrek glass. The yellow on that glass (at the Fiona Wanted sign) was 1,946  ppm cadmium.

Now, since the paint on the glasses is a thin film, it is possible that the cadmium levels are actually higher in the paint because the analyzer penetrates the glass, and the glass doesn’t have any cadmium. And, the XRF analyzer detects total and not soluble levels, which, as we know from the Zhu Zhu pets fiasco, is a big difference.

The real question is – does the cadmium matter? Cadmium is considered more toxic than lead and exposure is linked to a number of health problems. Cadmium is a carcinogen. Ingestion of low levels of cadmium can lead to kidney damage and fragile bones. The CPSC’s recall announcement states that “[c]onsumers should stop using recalled products immediately.”

But can you get exposed from cadmium in the painted decorations on the outside of these glasses? The painted decorations are unlikely to leach into liquids contained in the glasses – the decorations are on the outside. The decorations are also below what is known as the “lip and rim area” – or the area where you put your mouth to drink out of the glass – so you are not likely to actually put the painted decorations in your mouth.

However, you can get wear and transfer from the decorations to your hands. While dermal absorption of cadmium is very low, the exposure occurs as cadmium is transferred to your hands and then your mouth or your food. Think about it – drink out of the glass, eat a french fry or your chicken nuggets. Are you going to wash your hands in between? Nope.

Also, washing the glasses can result in contamination of other dishes. In an automatic dishwasher, the heat and intensity of the water hitting the glasses can cause the decorations to deteriorate. Unfortunately, the cadmium can contaminate other dinnerware placed in the dishwasher – although the rinse cycle may remove all or some of it.

Does it matter? Well, there isn’t an applicable regulatory standard (see below), but you may want to avoid the glasses.

Why is there even cadmium in a children’s product (and is this a children’s product?)? Earlier this year, there were several high profile recalls of cadmium in children’s jewelry. But, the thing is, there isn’t any comprehensive federal regulation addressing cadmium in children’s products.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) does NOT have a limit for total cadmium. It does implement a standard for soluble cadmium in paints and coatings used on children’s toys (because the CPSIA makes mandatory the ASTM F963 toy standard). That standard is 75 ppm cadmium (soluble). But the CPSIA doesn’t have a cadmium standard for all children’s products as the CPSIA does for lead.

The CPSC has recalled cadmium children’s products (including the previously mentioned children’s jewelry items) under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA). The FHSA allows the CPSC to find an item to be a “banned hazardous substance” if the level of cadmium is sufficient to cause substantial illness as a result of reasonably foreseeable handling or use, including reasonably foreseeable ingestion by children.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a standard for cadmium (and lead) in ceramic articles, flatware and hollowware used for food storage. The standard is based upon extractable or leachable cadmium (and lead) and not total cadmium as measured by the XRF.

In addition to this standard, there is a voluntary industry standard for lead and cadmium in the lip and rim area. These limits are not more than 4 ppm of lead and not more than 0.4 ppm for cadmium leachable from the lip and rim area. And, as discussed above, the Shrek decorations are outside the lip and rim area.

In California, there is Proposition 65, which requires a warning before exposing consumers to chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer or reproductive or other developmental harm. Cadmium is included on the Proposition 65 list. Proposition 65′s levels are based upon exposure, so various settlements (known as consent judgments) have established content levels in various articles. Under what is known as the Boelter settlement, decorations on glassware outside the lip and rim area can contain no more than 4,800 ppm cadmium (tested by a digestive test or a separate standard for wipe tests), which is higher than the results I got (for total cadmium, although caveat mentioned above about thin film).

Minnesota also has a law regulating cadmium in paints and the like. Specifically, Minnesota law bans the intentional introduction or incidental presence above 100 parts per million of lead, cadmium, mercury or hexavalent chromium into any pigment, paint, dye, ink or fungicides used or sold in the state after 1998.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier from California also made the CPSC aware of this issue.  It appears that Congresswoman Speier’s efforts were instrumental in the recall.  Given the lack of an applicable regulatory standard, whether the recall was necessary or not is open to debate.

(Please note – I updated this post to clarify the Boelter settlement levels. I inadvertently dropped part of a sentence, so I had a lip and rim area level confused with a non lip and rim area limit.)

(Please note further – While I am an attorney, my testing of these Shrek glasses had nothing to do with my legal practice. My use of the XRF for testing stems from being a former environmental engineer, a mom and a consultant that has access to the device & uses it. I am not involved in any lawsuit or claim against McDonald’s related to these glasses. I have received no monetary benefit from testing these glasses or the recall.)

 

TheSmartMama – CPSIA Solutions – XRF Testing for Lead Content CPSIA Compliance

Okay, so this is a service pitch.  Just skip it if you are not in the market for lead content testing. 

As you know, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 set mandatory lead content standards for all children’s products sold or distributed for sale in the United States, among other requirements. While the testing and certification requirements are stayed, you still cannot distribute in commerce any children’s product, or any part of a children’s product, that exceeds 600 parts per million (ppm) lead. That level drops to 300 ppm. 

Trying to figure out whether your products comply?  TheSmartMama provides x-ray fluorescence (XRF) screenings for lead content to support certification claims for CPSIA compliance.  I can provide handheld XRF screenings in my facility (you mail the product) or onsite at your location – whether it be your sales showroom, your warehouse or your store.   

XRF testing is non destructive and is relatively quick.  Components identified with levels of lead potentially of concern can be further tested for lead content, or can be replaced.  The XRF testing is recognized by the CPSC for lead content testing.  Please note that lead in metal children’s jewelry and lead in paints and coatings must be tested using 3rd party accredited testing.  Also, XRF screening cannot identify phthalates.

What now? Toxic lead in baby changing pads & diaper bags

You may not even want to hear this but it is actually nothing new.  It gets almost tiresome – the daily reports about this toxic chemical in this product.  You may stop even paying attention.  I can’t say a blame you.  You almost want to give up.  But don’t!  We can eliminate or reduce toxic chemicals in our homes.  It may take some sweeping policy changes to make a real difference on a global scale, but you can make the environment you want a home.


So, what’s the latest?  Diaper bags and changing pads contain lead.  A report from the Center for Environmental Health found high levels of lead in a number of diaper changing pads and diaper bags.  The CEH purchased 60 diaper bags from major California retailers and specialty stores in February and March, 2008, and tested the bags and the changing pads that came with the bags for lead using an X-ray fluorescence analyzer.  The bags & pads were also sent to an independent laboratory to verify the results.


And the results?  Some of the bags came back with elevated lead levels.  Why?  These bags and changing pads, or parts of them, were made with polyvinyl chloride (“PVC” or vinyl) plastic.  PVC plastic has to be stabilized to retain its strength.  It is often stabilized with lead, although other metal salts can be used.  The lead isn’t bound up in the plastic polymer, so it will migrate to the surface, especially with exposure to heat and friction.  The result?  Lead is available for pick up on the surface of some vinyl items. 


The CEH compared the lead levels to the federal standard for lead in paints and other coatings, which is 600 ppm.  This isn’t a standard for lead in vinyl, but it was at least a benchmark for comparison purposes.  There is no federal standard for lead in vinyl.  California’s Proposition 65 requires warnings for listed chemicals, and certain standards have been established for lead in certain products – above the level, a warning is required and below it, no warning is required.  Most of these standards are below 600 ppm for lead in vinyl products, such as tool handles and electrical cords.


Does it matter?  Lead exposure can cause significant adverse health consequences, including lower IQ scores, at low levels.  Children are more at risk for lead exposure.  The benchmark is 10 micrograms lead per deciliter blood, but it is fairly well established that there is no safe level for lead, and health effects have been demonstrated at blood lead levels of 2.5 micrograms per deciliter blood.  Lead exposure is cumulative, so little small exposures can add up.  Lead based paint and lead in household dust remain a more significant exposure for children, but you still might want to check out  your diaper bag.  The highest lead levels were found in the changing pads of three bags from K-Mart including a Disney Baby “Winnie the Pooh” bag, a Baby Got Bag leopard print bag, and a “Baby Necessities” brand bag. A fourth with lead in the changing pad was a “George” store-brand bag from WalMart. A “Red” brand bag from Mimi Maternity and a Carter’s “Out ‘N About” bag from Babies R Us had high lead levels in other parts of the bag.