Holy Cadmium, Batman! Heavy Metals Found in Novelty Glasses…Again

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Erik S. Lesser/EPA/Corbis

In July 2010, following an Associated Press (AP) investigation, McDonald’s recalled a line of promotional Shrek-themed glasses because of concerns that the enamel used in their designs contained cadmium, a heavy metal and known carcinogen. Now, according to ongoing investigations by the AP, many other novelty glasses sold throughout the country still contain unsafe levels of cadmium and lead.

Glasses depicting Superman, Wonder Woman, characters from the Wizard of Oz and others all contained high levels of the heavy metals, according to tests commissioned by the AP. The toxins can be ingested by children if they are rubbed off onto their hands or into their mouths while using the glasses. The AP reports that the amount of lead in many of the glasses was enough to raise a 6-year-old’s blood lead levels to the government maximum after touching them 20 times. (More on Time.com: Flame Retardants in Everyday Products May Be a Health Hazard, Scientists Say)

The glasses were sold in a gift shop at Warner Brothers Studios and from Coca-Cola’s website, and were often specifically intended to appeal to children, the AP reports:

The irony of the latest findings is that AP’s original investigation in January revealed that some Chinese manufacturers were substituting cadmium for banned lead in children’s jewelry; that finding eventually led to the McDonald’s-Shrek recall; now, because of the new testing primarily for cadmium in other glassware, lead is back in the spotlight as well.

AP’s testing, conducted by ToyTestingLab of Rhode Island, found that the enamel used to color the Tin Man had the highest lead levels, at 1,006 times the federal limit for children’s products. Every Oz and superhero glass tested exceeded the government limit: The Lion by 827 times and Dorothy by 770 times; Wonder Woman by 533 times, Superman by 617 times, Batman by 750 times and the Green Lantern by 677 times.

Part of the problem is that cadmium is a popular ingredient in pigments, such as the fire-engine red that colors the Coca-Cola logo and Superman’s “S.”

For more on the investigation, see the AP’s special report.

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