Jennifer Taggart at The Smart Mama:
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, which made sense. 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 likely 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, can be a big difference.
The real question is – does the cadmium matter? Well, 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. So you might not think it matters. 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.
Cynthia Dermody at The Stir:
Yes, cadmium is bad news. It’s the 7th worst material on the CDC’s List of Most Hazardous Substances in the Environment, and kids tend to suffer worse effects. But adults are exposed to cadmium, too, every day. And not just from toys.
Where we get it from:
- Cigarettes (it’s in smoke, and it’s a known carcinogen, which means it causes cancer);
- Industrial settings with contaminated air;
- Drinking polluted water;
- From foods, especially shellfish and kidney and liver meats.
How can it hurt us:
Low levels have not been shown to causes any major health problems, which is a good thing, because we all probably have some in us. But higher levels from direct exposure, especially over time, can lead to dire consequences:
- Breathing high levels of cadmium can severely damage the lungs;
- Eating food or drinking water with very high levels severely irritates the stomach, leading to vomiting and diarrhea;
- Long-term exposure to lower levels of cadmium in air, food, or water leads to a buildup of cadmium in the kidneys and possible kidney disease;
- Other long-term effects are lung damage and fragile bones.
While the government has put limits on cadmium in drinking water and in the workplace, there are currently no restrictions on cadmium in jewelry and certain other consumer products.
Should you be afraid? Not really. Just don’t work for an OSHA violator, smoke, eat kidney pie more than once a week, or drink unregulated lake water from a Shrek glass and you’ll probably be fine.
Chris Morran at The Consumerist:
The total number of recalled glasses is somewhere in the 12 million range. The CPSC advises that if you are the owner of any of these glasses to discontinue use immediately.
Though no incidents have been reported, long-term exposure to the cadmium present in the printed designs on these glasses could have adverse health effects on the users.
There are four different designs available for the 16-ounce glasses, each featuring a different character from the film — Shrek, Fiona, Puss n Boots and Donkey. All four designs are included in the recall.
Go to McDonalds.com/glasses for additional instructions on how to obtain a full refund.
If you feel the need to speak to someone on the phone, you can call McDonald’s toll-free at (800) 244-6227 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. CT Monday through Friday.
Peter Chubb at Products Review:
This got us thinking as to what other products contain this chemical? We thought we would do a little search and come up with a list for you. There were reports on May 11 that Claire’s had to issue a recall on 19,000 ‘Best Friends’ kids jewelry as it contained high levels of toxic cadmium. More details on this can be found at the Thaindian News
McDonald’s recall of 12 million Shrek glasses containing cadmium was spurred, in part, by an anonymous tip from blogger/author Jennifer Taggert who used a handheld analyzer to zap the glass and read its heavy metal content. Here’s her take on the danger in the glassware.
What’s interesting and amazing about this story is that this device, an x-ray flourescence analyzer, is just a little bigger than a video game controller and works almost instantly. There’s no reason why the responsible government agency can’t just hire a couple of people to use this tricorder to test samples of every shitty little tchotchke that a fast food restaurant hands out.
Perhaps I was the only person who imagined that testing toys for heavy metal levels was a time-consuming and expensive process. The fact that it’s so damn easy just emphasizes the slight importance placed on children’s health versus the all-important free market.
David Knowles at Politics Daily:
This news sent Twitter users into punchline overdrive on Friday. Here are some of the best results.
“McDonald’s is recalling Shrek glasses,” tweeted gaucheboy. “Which means they contain something more poisonous than the food.
“McDonald’s has recalled Shrek glasses because they are ‘toxic,’ now all we need to do is convice DreamWorks that Shrek 4 is toxic, too.” wrote Kim_Kobayashi.
“BP will be putting those McD’s Cadmium-tainted Shrek glasses to good uses, scooping up oil on surface of ocean,” wrote dianagram.
The satirical news magazine The Onion, meanwhile, went for a more deadpan approach, tweeting, “McDonald’s recalls 12 million Shrek drinking glasses after realizing that they’re cheap, toxic pieces of crap.”
Neil Miller at Film School Rejects:
The question becomes: how will this effect the film’s performance? Aside from the perception that the movie is trying to kill your family, the situation does raise public awareness of the film.
Alright fine, that’s all nonsense. This situation has nothing to do with the movie itself. In fact, your kids may have more risk of damage from actually seeing the intensely subpar flick than from the cadmium, which is said to cause kidney, lung, intestinal and bone damage. Seeing Shrek Forever After could cause perceptive film quality syndrome, and that’s much worse.