- Associated Press - Monday, November 22, 2010

LOS ANGELES | Federal regulators launched an investigation Monday into lead levels in drinking glasses depicting comic-book and movie characters, declaring that the items are subject to standards for “children’s products.”

Testing commissioned by the Associated Press revealed that the glasses contained lead up to 1,000 times the federal limit for children’s products — as much as 30 percent by weight. The items also contained lesser amounts of the more toxic metal cadmium.

The glasses — with colorful designs depicting the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman and characters from “The Wizard of Oz” such as Dorothy and the Tin Man — did not release high amounts of lead from the decorations, and no one would be injured by handling them. The issue is whether the glasses, made in China, comply with strict federal law on how much lead can be in a children’s product.

The importer of the glasses, Vandor LLC of Utah, told AP the glasses are targeted to adult collectors and that they passed testing for lead.

But a spokesman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Scott Wolfson, said Monday that the agency considers the glasses children’s products and is collecting samples for its own testing.

A hand-held device tests a Ronald McDonald glass for cadmium, lead and other toxic elements. Federal regulators have said such glasses are subject to standards for children's products. (Associated Press)
A hand-held device tests a Ronald McDonald glass for cadmium, lead and ... more >

That determination matters because if regulators had concluded they were not children’s products, the glasses wouldn’t be subject to strict lead limits. The federal limit on children’s products is 0.03 percent — AP’s testing showed the lead content in the colored decorations was between 16 percent and 30.2 percent.

Neither Vandor nor Warner Bros., which sold the glasses AP bought for testing at the entertainment giant’s studio store in Burbank, Calif., responded to requests for comment.

Last week, while commenting on AP’s test results, Warner Bros. said, “It is generally understood that the primary consumer for these products is an adult, usually a collector.”

However, on Warner Bros.’ website, the superhero glasses are sold alongside kids’ T-shirts with similar images and a school lunchbox. An online retailer, www.retroplanet.com, describes the 10-ounce glasses as “a perfect way to serve cold drinks to your children or guests.”

Mr. Wolfson said the agency also would be collecting samples of other glasses highlighted in AP’s investigation. “Those that have decorations that children would be attracted to are the focus of our attention at this point,” he said.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola Co. voluntarily recalled 88,000 glasses that shed cadmium during separate AP testing that re-created what could escape from decorations during regular handling. The glasses came in sets of four and were designed to look like cans of Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Sprite.

Coke said late Sunday that the all-red Coke glass prompted the recall “for quality reasons.” The company said that while “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.”