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.)

 

CPSC Chair Warns Parents – Take Cheap Metal Jewelry Away From Kids

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairperson Inez Tenenbaum issued an unprecedented warning in On Safety, the CPSC’s blog – don’t give  children cheap metal jewelry. Just don’t. This warning follows the recently released investigation by the Associated Press that found high levels of cadmium in children’s jewelry.

In the blog, Tenenbaum writes:

I have a message for parents, grandparents and caregives: Do not allow young children to be given or to play with cheap metal jewelry, especially when they are unsupervised.

We have proof that lead in children’s jewelry is dangerous and was pervasive in the marketplace. To prevent young chidlren from possibly being exposed to lead, cadmium or any other hazardous metal, take the jewelry away.

This warning really is unprecedented. Even after Jarnell Brown, a 4 year old boy, died in March 2006 from ingesting a charm that was nearly pure lead, the CPSC didn’t issue such a warning. Since then it has recalled more than 180 million units of metal jewelry because of high levels of lead, but it never issued such a warning. It really highlights that this CPSC is a much different agency under President Obama, as I posted yesterday following my conversation with CPSC Spokesperson Scott Wolfson.

And Tenenbaum’s warning is right on if you are concerned about exposure to cadmium, which, like lead interferes with brain development. Cadmium also causes cancer.

Cadmium is shiny and cheap, especially since cadmium’s price continues to drop as we switch out of nickel-cadmium batteries. So if a manufacturer has a choice between using cadmium or zinc alloy, the usual substitute for lead, the manufacturer will select the less expensive cadmium. Cadmium is also malleable at lower temperatures than zinc. And since cadmium isn’t regulated under the CPSIA, manufacturers can use it. That being said, it looks likely that the CPSC will act to declare high levels of cadmium in children’s jewelry to constitute banned hazardous substances under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.

TheSmartMama Investigates – Found Cadmium Jewelry at Target

After the Associated Press released the results of its investigation evaluating toxic cadmium in children’s jewelry on Sunday as a substitute for lead, I posted that using cadmium in jewelry pre-dated the lead content limits of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), but that I had seen an upswing in cadmium in jewelry and vinyl since the CPSIA. Cadmium in jewelry seems to have been more widely used since 2003, when cadmium prices dropped.  The thing about cadmium is that it is shiny, strong and malleable at low temperatures – lower temperatures than zinc, the usual substitute for lead in jewelry.

I also decided to use my Niton XRF analyzer to do some super sleuthing a la Nancy Drew.

target necklaceI purchased two necklaces from the girls’ section at Target on December 12, 2009. These necklaces are clearly intended for children – they are sold in the girl’s clothing department and the length is shorter than what would be common for an adult. So, I tested them. One tested fine, but the other tested high for cadmium. Using the Niton XRF analyzer, the heart shaped charm tested at 22,000 ppm cadmium and the star shaped charm tested at 64,000 ppm. Now, the “rhinestones” interfere a bit with the results, as does the shape of each charm, and since I didn’t want to damage the piece, I didn’t pry out the “rhinestones” or hammer the shape into something a bit easier to test. So, if Target was my client, then I would recommend wet testing to verify the results. But there is no doubt that both of these charms contain cadmium.

Charms are always problemmatic because kids have a tendency to stick them in their mouth. While these are intended for children old enough to know NOT to stick them in their mouths, I know that virtually every little girl I know mouths or sucks on their necklaces. Cadmium is a problem if swallowed, and can also result in low level exposures just from mouthing,

I know that since the Associated Press broke its story, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has reacted quickly to address the issues. CPSC Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum has made remarks at an international toy fair in Hong Kong urging manufacturers not to substitute cadmium in place of lead.

I had a great conversation with Scott Wolfson, CPSC spokesperson. It was actually a pleasure to speak with him, and his comments emphasized the dramatic change at the CPSC under President Obama. He stated that the CPSC is aiming for true clarity in the Asian marketplace, which seems very consistent with Tenenbaum’s comments in Asia following the cadmium. Wolfson however did state that parents may want to steer clear of lower cost jewelry if they are concerned about exposure.

Cadmium in children’s jewelry isn’t regulated under the CPSIA. There is a standard for soluble cadmium in paints and coatings used on children’s toys, but this standard isn’t applicable to metal worked into children’s jewelry. However, the CPSC can address the issue under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA). The CPSC can find the jewelry items to be “banned hazardous substances” under the FHSA if it finds that the items contain quantities of cadmium sufficient to cause substantial illness as a result of reasonably foreseeable handling or use, including reasonably foreseeable ingestion by children.

And this seems like good advice in light of  comments from jewelry industry representatives like He Huihua, manager of the Suiyuan Jewelry Shop in Yiwu. As reported by the Associated Press, he stated, “We just make what our clients order. If they pay more, we use the better raw material, and vice-versa. From a few cents to a few dollars, we can make the same style of jewelry product with a different raw material.” In response to a question regarding the health risks associated with cadmium, he answered “I can’t be overly concerned about that.” The AP reports “interviews with more than a dozen manufacturers and sellers in Yiwu confirm that cadmium is a common ingredient in the earrings, bracelts, charms and other baubles being churned out by local factories.”

When it comes to jewelry, zinc alloys cost more than cadmium, so with everybody wanting lower prices, substituting cadmium seems to make financial sense. Unfortunately.

Toxic cadmium found in children’s jewelry

bigstockphoto_Just_Out_Shopping_233(Updated January 13, 2010 – I made a mistake in one of the ppm statement which is now corrected.)

Did you think lead was the only concern in children’s jewelry? Unfortunately, no.

The Associated Press reports that Chinese manufacturers are switching to the toxic metal cadmium in children’s jewelry because they are barred from using lead under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). To be honest, I’m not sure that it completely accurate. As stated in the article, jewelry industry veterans say that cadmium has been used in products for Chinese markets for years. I think many of those were imported into the US as well. In my experience testing using my Niton XRF Analyzer, I found cadmium in children’s jewelry before the CPSIA was enacted, although it is probably true that manufacturers looking for a substitute for lead because of the CPSIA may be turning to cadmium, especially since the price of cadmium has plummeted recently, although the more common replacement for lead is zinc.

In any event, the AP articles reports on its investigation involving 103 children’s jewelry items, almost all of which were purchased in November and December of last year. Those 103 items were tested, and 12 of the items contained at least 10% cadmium (or more than 100,000 ppm cadmium). Included in this list are pendants featuring “The Princess and The Frog” characters. The items were purchased at Walmart, Claire’s and a dollar store. In addition, two other items contained lower amounts of cadmium, and 89 of the items were free of cadmium.

According to the AP story, the most contaminated piece was a shocking 91% cadmium by weight, or 910,000 ppm. Other jewelry items tested at 89%, 86% and 84% cadmium by weight.

Cadmium is a known carcinogen. It is also listed on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm as a reproductive toxicant for males.

Kids don’t have to swallow an item to be exposed. They can get low level doses of cadmium by mouthing, biting or sucking on the jewelry items, as kids tend to do.

The AP investigation also tested the items with high cadmium to see if any exposure would occur if the items were swallowed. This testing involved an acid bath designed to mimic stomach acid. Three flip flop bracelet charms sold at Walmart contained between 84 and 86 percent cadmium. These charms fared the worst in the stormach acid test. One of the charms leached more cadmium in 24 hours than what the World Health Organization would deem a safe exposure over 60 weeks for a 33 pound child.

In several tweets on Sunday, Scott Wolfson. Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesperson, indicated that the CPSC would be investigating the matter and that the CPSC was on its way to China to address the issue. Keep in mind that the CPSIA does not regulate total cadmium content in children’s products. Instead, under the CPSIA, there is a limit for soluble cadmium in paints and coatings used on children’s toys. However, the CPSC can pursue products that the CPSC deems to be a public danger under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act – as it used to do for lead in children’s jewerly before the CPSIA was enacted. And, of course, in California, items that expose a consumer to significant risk level of cadmium must have a Proposition 65 warning.

In addition to jewelry as discussed in the article, I’ve also seen an increase in cadmium turning up in vinyl items. Cadmium compounds can be used to stabilize vinyl just as lead can be used, and with the regulation of lead under the CPSIA, I’ve seen many more vinyl items with cadmium in the last year in my XRF testing.