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.”

Getting the Lead Out – Folk & Herbal Remedies

Healthy living often includes considering natural or herbal remedies for getting and/or staying well.  I’ve blogged before about how I have been growing and drying my own herbs for use in teas, tinctures, salves and other applications. However, several commonly used traditional and folk remedies have been found to contain lead.  Some are contaminated with lead from the manufacturing process or soils.  Some are made of lead or lead salts.  For example, greta is a traditional Mexican folk remedy commonly used to treat children’s stomach ailments.  But, greta can contain as much as 90% lead, and can poison children, instead of making them better.

Reports of children being poisoned by folk remedies are more common then you would think.  One story expressed a young mother’s grief and guilt over poisoning her two children and a niece with greta.  She gave it to them to help with stomach problems.  She is quoted as saying “[i]nstead of doing something good for them, I did them more harm.”  Luckily, the high levels of lead were detected a week later during a routine checkup.  The children have reportedly suffered no ill effects.

Traditional and folk remedies are the second most common source of lead poisoning in the United States.  The CDC estimates that traditional or folk remedies may account for as much as 30% of all childhood lead poisoning cases in the US.  But, it is suspected that many cases go undetected.  Many doctors don’t ask about alternative medicines, and most people don’t volunteer the information.  And only about 14% of children are tested for lead.

Many of these remedies are manufactured outside the US and purchased in ethnic grocery stores and neighborhood shops, or brought into the US by travelers.  These remedies are often cultural traditions, handed down by generations.  For example, ayurvedic remedies have been used in India for at least the last 2,000 years.  But, one survey of ayurvedic remedies sold in the Boston area found that 20% of them contained potentially harmful levels of lead, mercury and arsenic.

Many people think “my grandmother used it, so it must be okay.”  Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it safe.  The traditional or home remedies can cause serious cases of lead poisoning because the lead concentration is often very high and the medicine is intentionally swallowed.

So, since you can’t tell just by looking at a folk or herbal remedy whether it contains lead or another potentially harmful ingredient, do a little bit of research before taking a folk or herbal remedy. Following is a list of common herbal or folk remedies that have been found to contain harmful ingredients – but this list isn’t comprehensive.



Alternative or Folk Remedies and Cosmetics Found to Have Lead Present






Used to Treat





Al Murrah Colic, stomachache, diarrhea Saudi Arabia
Albayalde or albayaidle Vomiting, colic, apathy, lethargy Mexico,Central America
Alkohl (also known as kohl, surma or saoott) Umbilical stump remedy (also used as a cosmetic) Middle East,Africa,Asia Can contain up to 83% lead
An Kung Niu Huan Wan China
Anzroot Gastroenteritis Middle East
Ayurvedic remedies including Guglu (reports of 14,000 ppm lead), Sundari Kalp (pill, reports of up to 96,000 ppm lead), and Jambrulin (reports of 44,000 ppm lead)[iii] India
Azarcon (also known as rueda, liga, coral, Alarcon and Maria Luisa) Empacho, vomiting, diarrhea 95% lead
Ba Bow Sen (also known as Ba Baw San or Ba Baw Sen) Colic, hyperactivity, nightmares and to detoxify “fetus poisoning” China
Bal Chamcha Liver problems, digestion, teething, milk intolerance, irregular stools, bloating, colic, poor sleep, poor dentition, myalgia India
Bal Jivan Baby tonic India
Bala Goli (also known as Fita) Stomachache, often dissolved in gripe water Asia,India
Bala Guta Children’s tonic India
Bala Sogathi Improve growth, teething, coug, cold, fever, diarrhea India
Balguti Kesaria For children and infants India
Bao Ning Dan Acne, pain, removing toxins China
Bezoar Sedative Pills China
Bint al zahab (also known as  bint or bent) Diarrhea, colic, constipation and general neonatal uses Saudi Arabia,OmanandIndia
Bint Dahab Saudi Arabia
Bokhoor (and noqd) Calming Kuwait
Cebagin Teething powder Middle East
Chuifong tokuwan Hong Kong
Cordyceps Hypertension, diabetes, bleeding China
Deshi Dewa Fertility Asia,India
Emperor’s Tea Pill Maintain body’s natural balance China
Farouk Teething powder Saudi Arabia
Ghazard (also known as Ghasard or Qhasard) Digestion, relieve constipation in babies Asia,India
Greta Digestive problems Mexico 97% lead
Hai Ge Fen China Powder added to tea
Hepatico Extract Healthy liver and promote regularity China
Jeu Wo Dan Cast dressing China
Jim Bu Huan Pain China
Kandu Stomachache Asian,India Red powder
Koo Sar (or Koo Soo) Pills Menstrual cramps China Lead believed to be present in red dye
Kohl (also known as Alkohl) Cosmetic, skin infections
Kushta Diseases of the heart, brain, liver, and stomach, aphrodisiac India,Pakistan
Litargirio Deodorant, foot fungicide, burns, wound healing Dominican Republic Approx. 80% lead
Lu Shen Wan China
Mahayogaraj gugullu High blood pressure India
Mahalakshmi Vilas Ras with gold Cold related symptoms, blood deficiency, wound healing, asthma India
Navratna Rasa General debility, rickets, calcium deficiency India
Ng Chung Brand Tik Dak Win China
Pay-loo-ah Rash, fever Southeast Asia
PoYing Tan Minor ailments China
Qing Fen Cast dressing, pain China
Santrinj Teething remedy Saudi Arabia 98% lead
Sundari Kalp Menstrual health India
Surma Teething powder India
Swarna Mahayograj Guggula with gold Rheumatism, gas, menstrual cycles, progesterone deficiency, mental disorders, fertility, menopause India
Tibetan herbal vitamin Strengthen brain (remedy for mental retardation) India
White Peony Scar Repairing Pills Scar Hong Kong
Zhui Feng Tou Gu Wan Bone ailments, joint pain, numbness China


Lead in Folk Remedies:  Smart Mama’s Simple Steps To Reduce Exposure

Skip the remedy.  If you don’t know whether it is safe or no, skip the remedy.  I understand that many of these remedies have been used for generations.  But, they can contain high levels of lead.  If you don’t know whether they are safe or not, then skip them.

Discuss with caregivers.  Discuss medications and remedies with all caregivers, including remedies.  Make sure your caregivers, including your relatives, do not provide any medical care, including home remedies, without checking with you.

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

Did you know that even today, childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children?

That even today, nearly a quarter of a million children in the US have blood lead levels high enough to cause significant damage to their health. And this is based upon an action level of 10 ug lead per dL of blood. Studies in the last 10 years show that blood lead levels significant lower cause permanent health problems, so the number of at risk kids is actually greater.

Children with elevated blood lead levels can suffer damage to the brain and nervous system. They can develop behavior and learning problems, such as learning disabilities, decreased intelligence, speech problems, language problems, poor muscle coordination, hyperactivity, slowed growth and other health problems.

Most of us dismiss the risk of exposure to lead. And yet. Lead exposure still occurs. In Nigeria right now, more than 400 kids have been killed from lead poisoning as a result of gold mining, and more than 30,000 people have been poisoned. A tragedy of horrific, immense proportions.

Yet lead poisoning doesn’t really occur in the United States still. Yes, it still does, even if your kids don’t lick the paint on the walls. Take a family in Tennessee living in a rental house built before 1978. They have discovered that all 3 children have elevated blood lead levels – child that is 12 has a BLL of 14, child that is 11 has a BLL of 8 and child that is 7 has a BLL of 21.7.

Or take the story of 8 month old Oskar Ryan-Garrad. He didn’t lick the walls. He didn’t eat paint chips. He didn’t suck or swallow lead contaminated toys. He simply acted like any baby and crawled around his home – a home constructed in the early 1900s. An optional blood draw found dangerously high levels of lead in his blood.

A risk assessor found lead laden dust on the windowsills of Oskar’s home, and on the floor and porch where he played. And his dad, a house painter, had lead dust on his clothes.

Monday kicked of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, and it is a great time to talk about how to reduce lead exposure. You can take some simple steps to reduce lead.

  • Wash your hands and get your kids to do so too! Easy, peasy step – washing your hands regularly with plain soap and water can reduce lead exposure. We pick up lead contaminated dust from lots of sources – washing it away means that we don’t get exposed.
  • Leave those shoes outside. We track in the bulk of the dirt in our home from outside. And with that dirt comes lead, cadmium, pesticides and more. Leaving your shoes at the door means that the dirt and the lead and other nasty stuff doesn’t come inside. One study found the checking shoes at the door can reduce exposure to lead by as much as 65%.
  • If your home was constructed before 1978, you may have lead based paint. Be careful of peeling and chipping paint – take care of it safely or at least make in inaccessible to kids. But even if your paint is in good condition, you can have lead contaminated dust. So make sure you wet wipe regularly and use a HEPA equipped vaccuum to keep dust bunnies down.
  • If your water pipes are older, you may have lead solder present, or even lead pipes. You can test your water with a simple home test kit that you mail to a laboratory. If you do have lead in your drinking water, consider a filter designed to remove lead. If you suspect lead in your water, one thing is to flush your pipes before drinking when the water sits for more than 6 hours. Just wait until you feel that slight temperature change.
  • If any adult in the home engages in an industry that results in lead exposure (construction, demolition, etc.), change your clothes and shoes before your come inside, and preferably before you get in the family car, so that you don’t bring lead contaminated dust home.
  • Skip vinyl products. Vinyl needs to be stabilized, and metallic salts are usually used to stabilize vinyl. Lead is often used. It doesn’t matter if you don’t suck on your fake leather (vinyl) purse – handling it can result in transfer from your hands to your mouth, or from your hands to your kids to their mouths, or from the purse directly to your kids hands and then their mouths.
  • Don’t give infants brass keys to soothe them. Brass can have lead added, and infants can be exposed as they mouth brass keeys.

Disney Princess Pants from Macy’s Have Lead in Belt Buckle – CPSIA Fail?

Having tested a lot of consumer products in the last two years, I’ve got a pretty good sense of what will pass and what will fail the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s (CPSIA) lead content limits. So when I stumbled across the pictured Disney Princess jeans with belt at Macy’s last week, I was surprised. Because the sparkling rhinestones in the belt buckle just screamed at me potential CPSIA fail. So I had to buy them and test.

Now, before I tell you the results, let me catch up any readers unfamiliar with the CPSIA. The CPSIA sets lead content limits for all children’s products. The current limit is 300 parts per million (ppm). With very  limited exceptions, this lead content limit applies to all children’s products within the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) jurisdiction, regardless of whether or not there is a risk of exposure. That particular point is a subject of much debate, which we will leave for another post. For more information on the CPSIA, you might want to start with my post about what is covered by the law.

Now, most crystals used to give cosnumer products “bling” contain lead – lead is added to glass to make crystal. So, for example, most Swarovski crystals test at around 230,000 ppm total lead. And therefore, such crystals, as well as lead containing rhinestones and glass beads, are banned from children’s clothing. A request from the Fashion Jewelry Trade Association for an exclusion from the lead content limits for crystal and glass bead products was denied by the CPSC. Basically, even thought the CPSC staff and commissioners found the risk of exposure was very low, the CPSIA doesn’t allow for such concerns. Walter Olsen over at Overlawyered discusses this problem as it relates to bling with great insight.

I’ve tested and spoken with many manufacturers/companies, many of whom destroyed inventory and abandoned bling items because of the CPSIA. The vast majority of these were small companies, and they suffered tremendously by the loss of inventory. So it makes me a little, okay a lot, angry when larger companies seem to ignore or even flaunt the CPSIA.

So back to these Disney Princess pants. The tag inside just says “Disney Princess” and the RN number indicates the manufacturer is Wear Me Apparel, LLC (RN 46795).  The style number is 18427034 with a UPC of 795050388023. The pants are size 5 girl, so clearly they are a children’s product, subject to the CPSIA lead content limit.

The results? Using the Niton XRF analyzer, I tested the belt buckle at 130,000 ppm lead. Now, it is hard to test a belt buckle in place, without disassembling the belt from the buckle. So the results may not be completely accurate. And, as always, I would recommend further wet testing for a more accurate result.

I would say that this has the potential to be a CPSIA violation.

Moreover, the belt itself seems to have cadmium in it, albeit at a low level. The belt is three layers – a pink vinyl layer, a foam layer, and then a white layer, apparently vinyl. When I test all three layers together, I get a reading of cadmium at 130 ppm and a lead reading of 14 ppm. Now, to test these layers properly, the belt should be disassambled, and the layers screened with the XRF with sufficient thickness. However, since I plan to return these pants, I did not do that.

In any event, I’ve reported my findings to the CPSC because I think all companies should comply with the CPSIA.

Since I don’t suck on it, I don’t care

biker chick sucking on a leather gloveWhen it comes to lead, I get that a lot. Really. I get comments all the time along the lines of, “Well, I’m not going to suck on it, so who cares?” Or, when it comes to lead in paint, “My kids don’t lick the walls, so it isn’t relevant.”

After my segments on Fox & Friends and Fox & Friends After Show Show, I got quite a few comments that it doesn’t matter if there is lead in the purse if the purse isn’t sucked on. There was also an extensive discussion on an eBay board about it.

I understand that there are a lot of risks in the world. The media bombards us daily with the latest health scare. It is hard to sort out what to worry about and what to ignore. And I get that there are more pressing concerns than lead in vinyl or lead in paint.

And we’ve also come a long way when it comes to lead. We’ve phased it out of paints used in the home. We’ve eliminated it as a fuel additive. At the same time, however, we are finding that levels once believed to be safe aren’t. About 290,000 children in the US have ADHD because of exposure to trace amounts of lead. And, as Dr. Greene explains, a number of recent studies have linked childhood exposure to lead to the surge in Alzheimer’s disease that we are seeing today (my rebuttal to those that say that they got exposed to lead when they were young and are just fine, thank you).

Lead is a potent neurotoxin, and kids are more at risk. Part of the reason kids are more at risk is because of the type of behavior they engage in. Part of it is that they absorb 50% of the lead that they ingest, whereas adults only absorb about 11% of the lead that they ingest.

So, tell me you don’t care about lead in vinyl because you’ve got a lot of other stuff to worry about or you don’t think the risk is that big. That’s fine. But don’t tell me you don’t care because you don’t suck on it. That just tells me you don’t understand the issue.

When it comes to lead in vinyl, lead migrates to the surface. Lead doesn’t like being in the plastic matrix so it moves out of it and comes to the surface. That process occurs more rapidly with exposure to friction and light/heat. Also as the product ages. Once the lead moves to the surface, it is transferred to hands upon handling, and from there can be ingested. Take, for example, lead in vinyl purses. If you handle your purse and your purse has lead, then the lead will be on your hands. If you touch your mouth, then you may well ingest some. Say you get in your car and grab some fries. You probably handled your purse before you got in the car, and as you were getting your money out. Don’t tell me you are going to wash your hands before you eat those fries. And the lead dust that transfers.

Or you handle your purse and then hold your child’s hand. And your child sticks her hands in her mouth. Or eats an apple without washing her hands. Or you handle your vinyl diaper bag and then offer your baby a bottle. All of those situations can result in lead transfer.

Don’t believe that lead comes out of vinyl? Well, the Center for Environmental Health did wipe tests of the purses it found lead in, and found enough coming off with the wipe tests to be of concern. And, the Consumer Product Safety Commission acted years ago to take vinyl blinds off the market because of the high levels of lead dust generated and collecting around the blinds.

When it comes to lead in paint, you do not have to lick the walls. Microscopic lead dust is generated around the home, particularly at friction surfaces, or where painted surfaces rub together. Your door jambs, your windows, your built in cabinets. Plus, we get lead dust blown into our homes from weathering of other buildings and we track in lead contaminated dust.

And the thing is, lead exposure is additive. We already get some in our diets. We also get some in our water from the pipes and fittings. We may get some at home – more if our home was built before 1978. Add in the exposure to lead in vinyl products, and your child’s exposure may be enough to shave off IQ points. Is it really worth that vinyl purse?

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.

Understanding the CPSC’s New CPSIA Interim Enforcement Policy Step 1 – Is It A Children’s Product?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Interim Enforcement Policy on Component Testing and Certification of Children’s Products and Other Products to the August 14, 2009 Lead Limits (referred to as “Interim Enforcement Policy” in this post) under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was published in December 28, 2009’s Federal Register. And boy are people confused from the emails I have received!

If you are trying to figure out what you need to do, I think the easiest way to understand how the Interim Enforcement Policy works is to first classify the product. To classify the product, you must address the threshold question: is the product a children’s product?

That isn’t always so easy to answer. For example, over the last year, I’ve gotten countless emails asking whether a diaper bag is a children’s product. It is intended for adults, yet most diaper bags come with a portable diaper changing pad. So, is the basic diaper bag a children’s product or not?

A children’s product is basically that the product is primarily intended or designed for children 12 years of age or younger. The CPSC has provided a statement as to the factors it will consider in determining whether a product is a children’s product or not:

  • A statement by the manufacturer about the intended use of the product, including a label on the product if such statement is reasonable;
  • Whether the product is represented in its packaging, display, promotion or advertising as appropriate for use by children 12 years of age or younger;
  • Whether the product is commonly recognized by consumers as being intended for use by a child 12 years of age or younger; and
  • The Age Determination Guidelines issued by the Commission staff in September 2002, and any successor to such guidelines

Most people don’t find those factors all that helpful for the questionable products. So, the CPSC has provided additional guidance as to what constitutes a children’s product in its Notice of Commission Action on the Stay of Enforcement Testing and Certification Requirements. Now, the CPSC states that it intends further rulemaking on the issue. Until that time, we must consider the CPSC’s pronouncements on the subject.

The Notice states that the CPSC presumes that the following products are children’s products: stuffed animals, hula hoops, outdoor playground equipment, children’s art materials, children’s backpacks and lunchboxes, strollers, playpens and other juvenille products. For products sized for both adults and children, such as mattresses, the youth-sized versions are presumed to be children’s products. Then we have the CPSC’s examples of what it considers to be children’s products subject to regulation under the CPSIA.

The first example is a car mat decorated with children’s animated characters. Although the mat may be decorated in such a way to be attractive to children, the CPSC states that it is intended for use by adults – or at least those old enough to own a car. So the mat is NOT a children’s product.

The second example is shredded mulch for sale at a home improvement store that happens to be used by an elementary school. Again, while it happens to be being used by an elementary school for the children to install a garden, the product is not intended for use by children and has not been marketed to appeal to children. So the mulch is NOT a children’s product.

Okay, so that gives us a lot of guidance. Also instructive is the CPSC’s General Counsel’s letter responding to an inquiry from the Writing Manufacturers Association concerning ballpoint pens. Basically, it comes down to items that are general purpose – such as ballpoint pens – are not children’s product. Of course, the letter leaves open the possibility that a pen can be classified as a children’s product – if the manufacturer advertised it exclusively for children’s use, marketed it as such, etc.

Okay, so if you have determined that your product is a children’s product, then you have to classify it a bit more. Is it a toy? Does it have any painted surfaces? Is it a child care article? Is it a durable nursery good article? I’ll post about these over the next several days.

If it isn’t a children’s product, then you aren’t completely off the hook. There are standards for various consumer products that apply. And I’ll post about these as well over the next several days.

Lead poisoning from the family car? From a car safety seat?

girl in car seatYes, it is true. Kids can get exposed to lead dust from the family car.

You may know that lead contaminated dust can be brought home by workers in lead related occupations. For workers in such occupations, the general recommendation has always been to remove clothing and shoes before coming inside the home.

I’ve always said that the same should be applied to the family car – just switch your clothes and shoes before getting in. But I never really had any support for that – just commen sense.

Now I do. The first reported cases of lead poisoning from car seats and family cars are in Maine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report today that 6 children in Maine suffered lead poisoning from dust in the family car. That’s right, the family car.

The children were determined to have lead poisoning based upon blood lead levels (BLLs) above 15 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dL). The current action level is 10 ug/dL, though research establishes that significant IQ deficits occur at BLLs of 2.5 ud/dL, and virtually all scientists and researchers will tell you that there’s no safe level of lead.

In any event, upon investigating, it was determined that this 6 children were exposed to contaminated lead dust in the family car and car seats. In these cases, the lead dust was due to a father or mom’s boyfriend bringing the lead dust into the car from his occupation – metal scrap recycling and paint removal. If you remove old paint; tear down or remodel houses, building, tanks or bridges; work at a shooting range; solder pipes; make or fix radiators or batteries; or melt, cast, or grind lead, brass or bronze, you may be exposed to lead.

The CDC’s recommendations to reduce transfer of lead contaminated dust to the family car are to place lead contaminated clothes into a closed container for laundering before getting into car, to take a shower and wash hands before getting into the car, to change clothes and to wash lead contaminated clothes separately from all other clothes. More ways to avoid brining lead dust home with you are available here.

I was an almost guest on the Dr. Phil show and all I got was a lousy lead contaminated mug

dr phil ceramic mugI was an almost guest on the Dr. Phil show.

I was supposed to be a guest with Jessica Gottlieb on the Madlyn Primoff story, and how we thought it was ridiculous she was charged criminally for kicking her kids out of the car and forcing them to walk home. However, a prior segment went very long because of a surprise guest, so I never spoke.

I was an almost guest.

Ever since, I’ve been trying to figure how to post about being an almost guest. What is there to say – I went, but I didn’t speak? I got my hair done. I waited around. I hung out with Jessica, one of top 50 Nielsen power moms, and she is cool. Who would care?

Then I was putting away the bag of goodies I got – a pen, a journal, a heart shaped stress ball and a mug. I happened to turn over the mug. And what did I see? A Proposition 65 warning that the mug contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer or other reproductive harm. So, I’m an almost guest and I get a mug with lead in it?

proposition 65 warningOf course,, I had to test the mug. Of course, what is the point of having a Niton XRF analyzer if you don’t test everything? So I tested the blue background first. If that had lead, I wasn’t going to be all that worried because then it would be bound up in the high fire glaze. The blue background tested non detect at less than 20 parts per million (ppm). Okay, so then I moved to the “Dr. Phil” logo, which appears to be a transfer or painted on. And, you would definitely handle it, although I don’t think that your mouth would get on it with normal sipping.

That Dr. Phil logo? It tested at 26,400 ppm lead.

Holy carp! I went to the Dr. Phil show and got a lousy lead contaminated mug.

Anyone want to make me a t-shirt? I can wear it at BlogHer

Realistically, would I be exposed to much? I really don’t know. Probably not until the logo started showing wear. But do I want to use it? Hmmm, no, I don’t think so. I’d rather use a food contact item without lead, thank you very much. (And, relating this to Madlyn Primoff, if I let my kids drink out of it, should I be charged with endangering the health of a child?)

I’ve been asked before whether a person should buy an item with a Proposition 65 label. Not familiar with Proposition 65? It is a California law that requires companies to provide warnings before exposing consumers to chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. It has bad points and good points.

But for consumers, the question usually is whether they should buy products with Proposition 65 warnings. And the answer is, at least for me, I think it depends on the product. Food contact items? Probably not. Adhesives? Probably okay, although follow the directions (usually well ventilated area, etc.) for proper use.

A warning doesn’t mean that the product necessarily even has a listed chemical present at a level that would require a warning. Business can place warnings on consumer products if the company, based on its knowledge, or assumption, believes that a Proposition 65 listed chemical is present without evaluating the exposure. So, for example, companies place Proposition 65 warnings on vinyl items assuming lead may be present since it is used to stabilize vinyl without testing to find out if lead is present. So a Proposition 65 warning may not mean that a listed chemical is even present.

That being said, I still don’t want Proposition 65 warning labels on food contact items. So, Dr. Phil, perhaps you should re-think your guest gift items.

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The end of bling? CPSC Publishes Proposed Rule for CPSIA Lead Content Exemptions

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has published its proposed rule governing procedures and requirements for lead content exemptions and exclusions under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). 

Any manufacturer or trade group seeking an exemption from the CPSIA’s total lead content limit for children’s product should read the proposed rule carefully.  The CPSC is requiring very specific information to support a request for an exclusion – information that may not be available or may be expensive to develop for some particular items.  The CPSC is proposing to require the following information to support these types of requests: 

For a determination exempting a particular product or material because it has no lead or lead levels below the applicable statutory limits (such as a request for dyed and undyed natural fibers), the requestor must supply: 

  1. A detailed description of the product or material;
  2. Representative data on the lead content in the product or parts of the product or the materials used in the production of the product;
  3. All data and information on the manufacturing processes by which lead could be added to the product or materials;
  4. All data on the facilities used to manufacture the product;
  5. An assessment on the likelihood that leaded materials in a particular facility will result in lead contamination of the material or product;
  6. Any other information on the potential for the lead content of the product or material to exceed the statutory lead content limit in effect;
  7. Detailed information on the tests methods used to measure lead content.  The CPSC specifically states that material safety data sheets (MSDSs) are NOT sufficient to satisfy this requirement;
  8. Any unfavorable information that is reasonably available to the person requesting the exemption.

For a determination excluding a particular product or material because it exceeds the lead content limits but it will not result in the absorption of any lead into the body, taking into account normal and reasonably foreseeable use and abuse by a child, the requestor must submit best available, objetive, peer reviewed, scientific evidence showing the following: 

  1. A detailed description of the product or material;
  2. Representative data on the lead content of parts of the product or materials used in the production of the product;
  3. All relevant data on the manufacturing processes by which lead could be introduced to the materials or product;
  4. All information relevant to the potential for the lead content of the product to exceed the statutory limits for lead;
  5. Detailed information on tests methods for measuring lead content in the product and information on why this data set is representative of the products or materials generally;
  6. An assessment of the manufacturing processes which strongly supports a conclusion that they would not be a source of lead contamination;
  7. Best available, objective, peer reviewed, scientific evidence that demonstrates that the normal and reasonably foreseeable use and abuse activity by a child and aging of the material or product will not result in the absorption of lead into the body nor have any otehr adverse impact on health or safety.  This information must address how much lead is present in the product, how much comes out of the product, and the conditions under which such may happen and information relating to a child’s interaction; and
  8. Best available, objective, peer reviewed, scientific evidence that is unfavorable to the requst.

So does this spell the end of bling in children’s products?  Crystals – the real ones, not the plastic imitiations – are leaded glass.  And leaded glass crystals fail the total lead content limit of 600 ppm.  Various trade groups have requested an exemption for crystals, and laid out their case in a petition filed with the CPSC.  This petition was filed before the CPSC published the proposed rule in its current form, and it seems that the petition does not provide all of the required information.  In particular, it is light on the peer reviewed data – and I think that this is where a lot of petitions may fail.  Peer reviewed data may not exist to support exemptions, and it takes time to develop.  So, we may not see completed requests for exemptions any time soon, depending on whether the CPSC sticks to this requirement. 

And this is unfortunate news for many small businesses.  I know a handful of businesses that have large inventories of blinged out children’s products – inventory that they cannot now sell.  I’m not sure how much of a risk a blinged out baseball cap is – it certainly seems to be a much smaller risk of exposure than say, lead in household dust.  I’d rather see money spent educating about simple steps to reduce exposure to lead in household dust than going after blinged out baseball caps.