Ridiculous Amounts Of Lead, Other Crap, Found On Decorative Glasses

According to a new study commissioned by the Associated Press, you might be getting slightly more than your recommended daily allowance of lead if you’ve been using some decorative drinking glasses. And by “slightly more,” we mean “up to 1,000 times more” lead.

Sparked by last summer’s massive recall of Shrek-themed glasses from McDonald’s over cadmium contamination, the AP had a lab test dozens of decorative glasses featuring superheros, like Wonder Woman and Superman and movie characters like the cast of Wizard of Oz.

From the AP report:

The decorative enamel on the superhero and Oz sets — made in China and purchased at a Warner Brothers Studios store in Burbank — contained between 16 percent and 30.2 percent lead. The federal limit on children’s products is 0.03 percent.

The same glasses also contained relatively high levels of the even-more-dangerous cadmium, though there are no federal limits on that toxic metal in design surfaces.

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.

It’s now up to the Consumer Product Safety Commission to look at the AP’s results and determine if the glasses in question fall under the category of “children’s products,” which would make them subject to the stricter lead limits.

In related news, Coca-Cola announced that it is pulling 22,000 sets of decorative glasses from shelves because they “did not meet our quality expectations.”

“While recent tests indicated some cadmium in the decoration on the outside of the glass, the low levels detected do not pose a safety hazard or health threat,” writes the company about the glasses that are meant to look like Coke cans.

AP IMPACT: Cadmium, lead found in drinking glasses [AP]
The Coca-Cola Company Announces Voluntary Withdrawal of Themed Drinking Glass [Marketwatch]


Edit Your Comment

  1. MongoAngryMongoSmash says:

    I don’t normally lick the outside of the glasses and the paint isn’t on the inside… so…not seeing the issue, per se. I’m 35 years old and had these when I was a kid. I have never broken a bone, ever, and believe me, I should have in my time.

    However, I wish I still had my Steelers glasses with John Stallworth, Lynn Swann and Franco Harris on them. Those rocked.

    • nova3930 says:

      That’s so strange. The FIRST thing I do with a glass is give a thorough tongue bath before I use it….

    • backbroken says:

      Same age here…I remember those Steelers glasses well!

    • Scuba Steve says:

      Exposure occurs through inhalation, ingestion or occasionally skin contact. Lead may be taken in through direct contact with mouth, nose, and eyes (mucous membranes), and through breaks in the skin.

      Tetra-ethyl lead, which was a gasoline additive and is still used in fuels such as aviation fuel, passes through the skin; however inorganic lead found in paint, food, and most lead-containing consumer products is only minimally absorbed through the skin.[18]

      I still wouldn’t trust it.. How many times have you gone from holding that glass, to holding a piece of food?

      • Firethorn says:

        As mentioned, it’s not absorbed very well through the skin; the lead is bound up. Think about how long it probably takes for those colors to fade.

        There’s also lead level to consider – Federal limits are set very low for various reasons.

        As you mentioned, the lead additives to gasoline is much easier to absorb; I was probably exposed to nearly an order of magnitude less lead than my parents, and my kids will probably be an order of magnitude less again.

    • lordargent says:

      I wonder how fast this stuff breaks off in the dishwasher.

  2. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    If the decorative paint is on the outside of the glass… what exactly is the problem?

    • Leksi Wit says:

      The paint comes off over time. Kids have a tendency to lick things too. Plus, if you stick them in the dishwasher, god knows how much of that gets on your other dishes. The biggest problem, is that it does these glasses do not meet regulation levels. For every cadium-lead filled glass that gets caught, how many things don’t? Think about that.

  3. Talisker says:

    They must be making the glasses out of recycled Prius batteries.

  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    OMG you people DRANK OUT OF THESE!!

    There goes the collectable status and the resale value.

  5. ITDEFX says:

    LOL… my parents still have the original star wars glasses that came out when the OT where out. As long as you haven’t been drinking out of them for 20+ years and just store them for display only then it’s fine. Unless they contained radioactive material which if it was around you for 20+ years could give you cancer :(

    • MongoAngryMongoSmash says:

      I had ROTJ, Princess Leia in the gold bikini. I probably would have licked that glass a couple of times had I been a little older when it came out… LOL.

    • Griking says:

      Were the McD and BK glasses from the 70s made in China as well? I’m curious how the lead content in the glasses made nowadays compares to the lead content in the glasses in the 60s and 70s.

  6. fredbiscotti says:

    I buy all of my decorative glassware from China, to be sure that I don’t have these sorts of quality problems.

  7. SerenityDan says:

    The logo on Guinness Pint Glasses is made of lead also but yet never hear anyone complain.

  8. AllanG54 says:

    When are we going to stop buying cheap crap from countries that have no standards whatsoever on product safety and aren’t willing to follow ours.

  9. Supes says:

    The Cadmium levels scares me even more, if only because it’s something not really tested for normally….

  10. jtheletter says:

    To everyone who doesn’t understand why paint on the outside of the glass is an issue, think about if you’ve ever removed a glass form the dishwasher that had water spots or a bit of soap film left on it. If so then you’ve seen first hand how lead can be transferred to the parts of the glass you do normally use. Same goes for all the plates and silverware in that same load of dishes. Not concerned because your dishwasher is brand-new and you don’t see water spots? Trace amounts of chemicals can still be present, just not visible to the unaided eye.
    The same problem is inherent in hand-washing such glasses, and in fact becomes even more dangerous is someone uses an abrasive scrubbing pad on the outside of the glass.
    Lead doesn’t have to be ingested in huge quantities to cause damage, the amount of powder in a single packet of sugar would kill you if it were lead and you ingested it all. Small doses of lead over time build up in the body and given enough exposure will collect in the bones enough to show up in xray images.

    I’m a certified for Lead Safe Removal in my state and part of our training involves learning about the hazards and the levels present for various types of exposure. The short version is this: you want ZERO exposure to lead. Any exposure at all is too much. It’s bad enough when we’re talking about construction site causes, but this is referring to lead products being found directly on what you use to eat? That’s insanity. If I had any of these glasses in my possession I would throw them out immediately – there is no safe way to eat with lead.

    • MongoAngryMongoSmash says:

      Everything will kill us, nothing is good for us, yet I’m still alive and kicking after growing up while riding a bike with no helmet, playing tackle football at recess, and enjoying a good game of lawn darts.

      Just saying.

      • jtheletter says:

        Ah yes, the lowest common denominator argument. Ultimately we all die so absolutely nothing is worth preventing, right?

        Your argument is useless, why bother getting out of bed in the morning with your reasoning?

        I guess you’re right though, since you personally have never been affected by this problem then it’s not a problem. I guess we can also rule out anything else that you haven’t personally experienced as being problems for the world: starvation, malnutrition, malaria, cholera, rickets, heart attacks. You’ve done just fine so far and experienced none of these things so it’s a waste of time and money for anyone to work to prevent them or find cures. Thanks for sorting that out for us, it’s so simple!

        • MongoAngryMongoSmash says:

          Dude, you don’t know me, you don’t live near me, you don’t know what my life was like. Your argument is useless.

          I’m simply saying. Life’s tough wear a helmet. Eat some dirt. Get your bubble if you have to worry about every little thing.

          I get out of bed everyday because I have to go to work and I have a family. I have responsibilities that are more important than worrying about whether or not I drank chocolate milk out of a glass that used lead paint on the outside over 30 years ago. It didn’t kill me. By the way, that’s why we have sinks so you can hand wash things that maybe shouldn’t be washed in a dishwasher. The kind of stuff with paint on the outside of them is probably one of the biggies.

    • framitz says:

      So, If you wash a whole load of these contaminated glasses with some regular dishes just how much lead residue is left on the regular dishes when the washing is complete?

      How much is measured in lab testing?

  11. Gravitational Eddy says:

    One of the really disturbing aspects of our modern world is the assumption by many people that if there’s any Lead in it, children are going to die. Or become horribly disfigured. Or something like that.

    It’s like those “razor blades in apples” stories we hear every Halloween… or the acid (as in illegal drug) stickers with Superman/He-man/or some other kid attractor on it.
    (I like that one a lot, It’s so stupid it’s cute)

    • jtheletter says:

      “children are going to die. Or become horribly disfigured. Or something like that.”

      So really, you have absolutely no clue what the actual dangers are, therefore in your mind there are none.

      This is not urban legend, this is not an old wives tale blown out of proportion. There is hard science that demonstrates beyond a doubt that lead exposure to young children at even minuscule levels will lead to developmental problems, learning disabilities, mental retardation, attention span and concentration issues. Please take 5 minutes and google for the information.
      This is not new either! The health hazards of lead have been known about since the late 1800s. And England banned lead in paint products starting in the early 1900s (1903 I believe) because of what was known even then. It took America two generations to make the switch.

      If you choose to reply I would hope you try to bring some facts to the table because right now you come off as completely clueless. We’re talking about lead paint on glasses – very likely used by children given the nature of the designs – so the ingestion path is clear. This isn’t some esoteric argument about how lead paint on highway signs endangers children – it’s drinking glasses!

      • Firethorn says:

        This is not new either! The health hazards of lead have been known about since the late 1800s.

        Very true. Yet I also have to ask what your definition of ‘minuscule’ is, because, well, between the elimination of lead paint on the walls of homes, leaded gasoline, and lead water pipes, we’ve dropped the lead exposure a HUGE amount, by sensibly targeting the largest sources of what people were absorbing.

        Now, we DO have to keep a bloody good eye on chinese products, because we don’t want those large doses again, but individual cases aren’t that big of a deal at this point.

        • jtheletter says:

          Minuscule is amount so small that you need to be a scientist to measure them basically. Here is a link to lead poisoning article on wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead_poisoning#Nervous_system
          This is not the best resource but it’s a start, I highly recommend you research it further, most states have extensive lead poisoning information available online.

          Here’s what that article has to say about poisonous lead levels in young children, this snippet does not even mention the full range of problems caused by these levels, read the full article for a more complete list. Keep in mind that 1 μg is 1/1000000 of a gram. Yes, one one-millionth of a gram.
          An average adult has about 5 liters of blood, let’s say a child has 2.5 Liters of blood, thus 5μg/dL is equal to about 125 μg of lead total. Even if the absorption rate of environmental lead was only 25% then that means ingestion of just 600 μg is enough to cause developmental problems in a child.

          600 millionths of one gram. Scary, no?

          “The effect of lead on children’s cognitive abilities takes place at very low levels.[68][87][92] There is apparently no lower threshold to the dose-response relationship (unlike other heavy metals such as mercury).[93] Reduced academic performance has been associated with lead exposure even at blood lead levels lower than 5 μg/dL.[94][95] Blood lead levels below 10 μg/dL have been reported to be associated with lower IQ and behavior problems such as aggression, in proportion with blood lead levels.[2] Between the blood lead levels of 5 and 35 μg/dL, an IQ decrease of 2–4 points for each μg/dL increase is reported in children.[23]”

    • Simon Barsinister says:

      No, it’s actually NOTHING like that. There has never been a single documented case of a razor blade in an apple on Halloween. Not one. Read Lenore Scenazy’s blog ‘Free Range Kids’ for more details.

      Lead is present on these glasses and on many products and lead is a well known hazard. Is it ok if your kids get just a little brain damage? Don’t worry, just a tiny bit of retardation. Nothing really noticeable.

      • Gravitational Eddy says:

        Gotta be a democrat. Always have to blame someone or something else for -your- defective genetic structure.
        I could point out that nature itself is eminently capable of weeding out the defects, and this is just one way of strengthening the human genome.

        • JulesNoctambule says:

          So a perfectly healthy child who survives lead poisoning only to suffer mental damage is somehow down to faulty genetics? And believing that lead is poisonous makes you a Democrat?

          Wow. Your grasp on facts and logic is simply breathtaking.

  12. Cicadymn says:

    Surely I’m not the only one that misses the old Batman glasses that McDonalds sold, the ones with the raised glass on the outside.

    Freaking awesome. Sad I don’t have them anymore.

    • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

      All my lead-paint McDonald’s glasses have found their way into oblivion, alas. Not due to any warnings about them, however, it just happens I have butter fingers. Btw–you own me one internet for scanning the QR code that you made your avatar. I expect full payment by tomorrow.

  13. RookOmega says:

    To all the people that say “what is the problem” with the paint on the outside of the glass.

    When the person holds the glass, to drink from, their hands can get lead on them, and since they are most likely eating at the time, they will transfer the lead to anything else they touch/eat.

  14. JohnJ says:

    China’s specialties are toxic, adulterated, and counterfit products.

  15. jcargill says:

    It’s always profits over people in the US, but we do try to curb it a bit to retain a modicum of a civilized appearance. In China, they don’t BS anyone, not even themselves. Their human rights record speaks for itself.

  16. smbizowner says:

    When are we going to wake up!

    WHY would a country like China care one IOTA about consumer safety issues with exports when they have such horrible consumer protection and human rights for their own people.

    Big corp doesn’t care either, it’s all about the $$$

    me, No dish ware or food in my house is imported from China.

  17. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    What about older sets? We have a set of Star Wars Empire Glasses from Burger King (yes, from the 80’s) would those be suspect too?

  18. terribletony says:

    Sounds like the Tin Man…
    (removes sunglasses)
    Is heavy metal.

  19. human_shield says:

    Just imagine how much was in those glasses we got in the 80’s.

  20. Costner says:

    The good news is, due to the lead content Superman can’t actually see what you’re drinking from your collector cup, so thankfully there will be no chastising for drinking a beer with my morning cheerios from him.

  21. El-Brucio says:

    Now I morbidly wonder if there were any consequences due to the Muppets and Star Wars glasses I used to drink out of constantly as a child in the 70’s and early 80’s.

  22. Hirayuki says:

    Wow, I (okay, my parents) still have a ton of these from the ’80s. I shudder to think of how much nasty stuff was in the paint back then. (Actually, I shudder all the time now, and I have those damn commemorative glasses to thank.)

    • smbizowner says:

      chances are those 70 and 80’s glasses were probably manufactured here in the USA and conform to lead specifications

  23. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I almost bought a set of inexpensive, attractive eight-place set of dinnerware so I would have a matching set for an important dinner party. They were a very good bargain, until you read the fine print. “Might contain a chemical known to the state of California to be…”, it said. I thought, WTF, what chemical is present in dishes that California has a law against? Lead, in the glaze, that’s what it was. Sold through Amazon and several eBay retailers. The worst part? Amazon didn’t have the warning; one of the eBay retailers did.

  24. Grungo says:

    A little lead never hurt anybody!

  25. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Uh oh…I wonder if this applies to my Batman drinking glass from the ’60s…the one I broke when I was seven and found again a few years ago at an antique sale. I guess I’d better not drink my chocolate milk out of it anymore. :(

  26. Incident8 says:

    What about older glasses, from the 70s and 80s?

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      I’d like to see some studies on the kids who have had alot of novelty items including glasses with designs on them. I guess if you are an adult who still has alot of items like cartoon pictures on glasses that might be subject matter for a study.

      I still think absorbed contaminants are alot lower than ingested contaminants. I think alot of the glasses that loose their picture is done when washing. So if a picture is wearing off it’s probably a dish cloth and detergent. I’m sure there’s body fluids/acids/oils that can affect glass paint/wear along with other chemicals like lotions and cleaners.

  27. Clyde Barrow says:

    This makes me wonder is lead was in our drinking glasses that we bought from gas stations way back in the 70s. That was common practice and I think my mom got a new glass with every fill-up. I don’t think we ever got sick from drinking from them but maybe we did. Dunno. I remember a set of glasses we got with the cartoon characters called “BC”. Some caveman cartoon that you’d see in the papers. Had ’em all.

  28. gedster314 says:

    What a surprise. You would think that if companies outsource the their production to a foreign country they would at least test the products to make sure they are safe. But then I guess that would cut into their cost savings. Funny how our bought government doesn’t do anything about contaminated products and the American companies always play the victim. You know dang well they knew all about it. Most of the time they move production not just for the labor but because they can use banned raw materials and do not have to worry about environmental contamination.