Feds are investigating drinking glasses with lead

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Federal regulators launched an investigation Monday into lead levels in themed drinking glasses depicting comic book and movie characters, declaring them children’s products subject to stricter standards than those intended for adult collectors.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said it was collecting samples of all glasses cited in an ongoing Associated Press investigation into dangerous metals in children’s merchandise, generally those containing the more-dangerous toxin cadmium.

The company that imported the Chinese-made glasses depicting the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman and characters from “The Wizard of Oz” such as Dorothy and the Tin Man announced it would voluntarily recall them, despite its insistence that they were marketed to adults.

In all, about 160,000 glasses were recalled by two companies since the AP disclosed Sunday that laboratory tests it commissioned showed that colored designs in a range of glasses contain high levels of lead or were made in such a way that lead or cadmium could escape and contaminate the hands of someone handling them.

The agency said its own inquiry would extend beyond the superhero and Oz glasses to include others cited by AP “that have decorations that children would be attracted to,” said spokesman Scott Wolfson.

Federal regulators have worried that toxic metals rubbing onto children’s hands can get into their mouths.

The concern is longtime, not immediate. While the superhero and Oz glasses had high levels of lead in their design colors, they did not release enough to hurt anyone. The issue is whether the glasses, made in China and purchased at the Warner Bros. Studios store in Burbank, Calif., comply with federal limits on lead in children’s products.

The AP testing revealed that the Oz and superhero glasses contained lead up to 1,000 times the federal limit; the enamel used to color the Tin Man glass was more than 30 percent lead, compared with a federal limit of 0.03 percent. The items also contained lesser but still notable amounts of cadmium.

Soon after Wolfson said Monday that the CPSC considers the glasses children’s products, Warner Bros. said it would stop selling them, and the importer, Utah-based Vandor LLC, said it would pull them from the broader market.

If regulators had concluded the glasses were not children’s products, they wouldn’t be subject to strict lead limits.

Both Vandor and Warner Bros. said in separate statements that their decisions were made in “an abundance of caution.” Vandor said the “themed glassware falls within legal limits for lead and cadmium content,” and insisted that adult collectors were their intended audience.

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 Brothers’ website, the superhero glasses were sold alongside a lunch box and children’s T-shirts with superhero images. An online retailer, http://www.retroplanet.com, described the 10-ounce glasses as “a perfect way to serve cold drinks to your children or guests.”

Vandor CEO Tom Russo said his company would “work with the CPSC to develop a recall plan.” Details of the recall will be posted on http://www.vandorproducts.com when available, the company said.

The company said that about 18,000 total four-glass sets have been sold _ split almost evenly between the Oz set and the superhero set.

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