An Evaluation of the Hazards of Toys and other Products made from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Lead and Cadmium Hazard in Specific Toys
and Other Juvenile Products

The original Greenpeace report

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Authorship of the Greenpeace studies (bottom of this page)
ALSO SEE:
"Lead & Cadmium available for ingestion by sucking and chewing - laboratory methods and results

MEASUREMENT OF LEAD & CADMIUM
IN ADDITIONAL TOY SAMPLES FROM VARIOUS U.S. CITIES
and METHODOLOGICAL
DETAILS OF LAB ANALYSIS

*TOXICOLOGY OF LEAD AND CADMIUM and   REPLICATION OF RESULTS
(Bottom of this page)

VARIOUS EARLY REACTIONS TO THE GREENPEACE STUDIES ON PVC TOYS

The CPCS's  response to the reports: the complete text of CPSC lab report.

 

BACKGROUND:
In 1996, the unexplained lead poisoning of children in three states provoked an investigation that identified vinyl blinds as the common source of lead dust.  The blinds were not suspected to be a source of lead even though vinyl has contained lead stabilizers since the 1950s. Vinyl requires the addition of metal stabilizers because it contains chlorine (vinyl is also known as polyvinyl chloride or PVC). Without a stabilizer, the chlorine can degrade the product by forming hydrochloric acid. Lead effectively stabilizes bound chlorine and binds any free chlorine that might be formed during processing or degradation.  Lead is also used in various pigments that color plastic.

There are three important aspects of the lead poisoning associated with vinyl blinds. First, lead poisoning is one of the most serious preventable public health hazards in the U.S.   Lead decreases intelligence and damages the nervous system at extremely low doses.   Its effects are cumulative and irreversible.   Second, lead has a long history of serving the obligatory role of stabilizer in vinyl products. Finally, lead is released from vinyl during product degradation. The Consumer Product Safety Commission experimentally demonstrated that light and heat can cause degradation of vinyl and liberation of lead dust     Unfortunately for children, vinyl miniblinds release lead during normal product use.

Given the serious health effects of lead and its inevitable release from vinyl blinds that contain it, Greenpeace asked whether other vinyl consumer products might also pose a lead hazard. Lead testing of vinyl consumer products began in Chicago, then widened to include 10 major U.S. cities and Montreal, Canada. Preliminary studies of bioavailability were conducted to determine the consequence of accidental swallowing. An accelerated aging study was conducted to determine whether toxic dust might be formed during product degradation.

References
(bottom of this page)

List of Infant Toys made of PVC (Vinyl) and those made from other plastics (does not indicate whether or not product contains lead or cadmium)

A random survey in Chicago reveals lead-containing vinyl products
An investigation of vinyl consumer products in Chicago showed that many of them contained lead (Table 1). Roughly 20% of the 131 products that were surveyed contained lead. Table 1 shows 28 lead-containing vinyl items that were purchased at national chain stores like Kmart, Toys R Us, Target, and Wal-Mart. The products include a variety of common school products, clothing, toys, and household items. Eighty-six percent of the lead-containing items in Table 1 exceeded the 200 ppm standard for lead in vinyl proposed by Consumer Product Safety Commission staff. In fact, more than half of the lead-containing items contained greater than 600 ppm lead and therefore would have been illegal and recalled if they had been painted wooden toys.
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Children are the marketing target
The vinyl items containing lead included items with popular children’s characters like Minnie Mouse, 101 Dalmations, Barbie, various Looney Tunes characters, and even Michael Jordan (Table 1). Other vinyl products containing lead included common household items used by children such as a cable for a Sega Genesis video game, various phone cords, a VCR cable, and headphone cables (Table 1). The lead-containing list even included vinyl placemats whose normal proximity to food is especially troubling. Various vinyl clothing items also contained lead. A Warner Bros. rain hat featuring Tweety contained over 4,000 ppm lead and a popular Columbia rain coat for children showed over 22,000 ppm lead (Table 1). Several toys easily available for sucking or even designed for it contained lead. A small hackey sack featuring Warner Bros. Looney Tunes characters contained over 1,600 ppm lead. A Kentucky Fried Chicken toy destined for children’s mouths contained roughly 200 ppm lead. A simple vinyl pouch containing cosmetics had nearly 400 ppm lead and a doll stroller for little girls showed over 7,000 ppm lead.
 
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Vinyl products also contain cadmium
All of the vinyl products containing lead also contained cadmium. In some cases the levels of cadmium were even higher than the lead levels. Since cadmium is even more toxic than lead, the results are especially surprising. Especially alarming is the presence of cadmium in a Kentucky Fried Chicken toy designed to put into children’s mouths. Each gram of this toy contained over 340 g cadmium (g is a microgram or one-millionth of a gram). Both the Minnie Mouse and 101 Dalmations backpacks also contained unexpected levels of the carcinogenic metal. Each gram of the two backpacks contained 225 and 321 g of cadmium respectively. The total amount of cadmium in the product adds up rapidly. For example, the 101 Dalmations backpack weighs roughly 300 g and therefore contains about 96,300 g cadmium. To place the results in perspective, the limit for exposure to inhaled cadmium dust in California is 0.05 g per day. This represents 1.8 billionths of an ounce per day. The 101 Dalmations backpack contained nearly 2 million times this level of cadmium.
 
Table 1.   Lead and Cadmium in Vinyl Consumer
                  Products
Purchased in Chicago

Item

Store

Lead

Cadmium

(ppm)

(ppm)

backpack; Minnie’s Spring Fever Disney

163

224.5

backpack; 101 Dalmations Kmart

104

321.0

backpack; Barbie Kmart

372

75.7

barbell; 2lb vinyl cover Target

7,050

12.4

breast milk cooler; Medela Target

375

29.3

cable; Sega Controller Toys R Us

4,100

17.4

cable; Gemini 3’ video coaxial Kmart

7,505

10.3

cable; Gemini mod. Phone cord Kmart

865

15.3

cable; Philco in-ear headphones Kmart

3,770

11.0

cable; Philco headphones Kmart

3,490

52.4

cable; AT&T 25’ phone line cord Kmart

213

6.5

cable; Gemini computer printer Kmart

5,765

18.1

key ring; Disney Minnie Totes Target

1,430

6.1

pencil case; Fun d Mentals Kmart

197

25.6

placemat; Warner Bros. Space J. Kmart

178

7.9

placemat; Barth & Dreyfuss Kmart

398

6.2

placemat; Gloria Vanderbilt Wal-Mart

505

12.0

purse; Pacific Kids Wal-Mart

349

104.8

rain hat; Warner Bros. Tweety Warner Bros.

4,060

35.4

rain coat; Columbia Youth Parka Uncle Dan’s

22,550

47.9

shower curtain; Springs Bath Wal-Mart

864

105.5

tent pole; Barbie Slumber Toys R Us

6,105

14.6

totebag; Tweety Wal-Mart

459

228.5

toy; Looney Tunes hackey sack Toys R Us

1,610

nd

toy; Kentucky Fried Chicken Toys R Us

207

344.0

toy; Toteables cosmetics pouch Target

392

152.0

toy; Dimples doll stroller Toys R Us

7,115

22.6

umbrella; Looney Tunes Toys R Us

817

27.0

Abbreviations: ppm, parts-per-million by weight in product; nd, not determined. All products shown were purchased in Chicago, Illinois. A representative sample of these products contained lead in cities throughout the U.S. See Results and Discussion for data and information regarding other cities. The Consumer Product Safety Commission staff-recommended limit for lead in vinyl is 200 ppm. Cadmium is not regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Proposition 65 regulates cadmium at one-tenth the level set for lead. Results shown are averages of duplicates. The average coefficient of variation was 9% and 22% for lead and cadmium respectively.
*TOXICOLOGY OF LEAD AND CADMIUM and
  REPLICATION OF RESULTS
(Bottom of this page)

*ALSO SEE "Lead & Cadmium available for ingestion by sucking and chewing - laboratory methods and results"

List of Infant Toys made of PVC (Vinyl) and those made from other plastics (does not indicate whether or not product contains lead or cadmium)

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This report Greenpeace 1997  
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Health Effects of Lead and Cadmium

Lead Toxicity
Lead appears to affect brain function in a variety of ways including disruption of calcuium regulation and neurotransmitter function.  Animal studies show that maternal lead exposure can damage neurons in offspring. Other effects of lead include inhibition of pre- and post-natal growth, impairment of hearing, and inhibition of heme synthesis. Lead is also a carcinogen. The age-sensitivity of lead results from the faster absorption and retention of lead compared to adults. However, adults can, and do become lead-poisoned.

Chelation is designed to remove lead from the blood, not the brain. It is used in cases with very high blood lead levels eg greater than 45 ug/dL. Unfortunately, chelation also removes calcium, magnesium and zinc and can actually increase lead absorption from the gastrointestinal tract.

Cadmium Toxicity

Inhalation of cadmium dust can cause lung and prostate cancer in people. Cadmium is listed as a carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the EPA, and under Proposition 65 in the state of California. Inhalation or oral exposure to cadmium also causes irreversible kidney damage; first in the tubules, then in the glomerulus. Chelation ends up causing even more damage since chelated cadmium concentrates in the kidneys.
Cadmium also has been shown to have reproductive/developmental effects in humans and animals. Elevated cadmium levels in humans have been significantly correlated with pre-term labor or a low birthweight for gestation age. Animal studies in rodents demonstrate that oral ingestion or inhalation of cadmium reduces viability. In male rodents, cadmium causes lesions of the testes, reduced sperm count, and impaired sperm motility. To my knowledge, the age-sensitivity of cadmium has not been studied.
However, the increased metabolism and respiration per body weight of children compared to adults may make children vulnerable to its effects.

Replication of results.

The exact Greenpeace study has not been replicated by others.  However, researchers at the State University of New York-Syracuse found lead and other toxic metals in a vinyl play kit, vinyl craft materials, vinyl children's gloves, and a vinyl basketball toy.[Hunt, A., Burnett, B.R. Basford, T.M., Abraham, J.L. Lead and other materials in play kit and craft items composed of vinyl and leather. American Journal of Public Health 87:1724-1727. 1997] In addition many other organizations have found lead and/or cadmium in vinyl toys including: NBC Chicago, CNN Phoenix, CBS Washington DC, NBC Detroit, NBC Seattle, as well as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Greenpeace and the EQI at University of North Carolina-Asheville requested that a light-degradation study of vinyl children's products be conducted by the CPSC as performed for vinyl miniblinds. The agency refused stating that outdoor vinyl products like a backpack, tent pole, beach totebag, coat, hat, purse, hackey sack, and umbrella were not likely to receive much sunlight. This also occurred with vinyl miniblinds. At first, the agency declared that the blinds were safe and refused to study them. Later, after a lot of pressure from state health departments, the agency reversed its decision.
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1 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Report on lead in vinyl miniblinds. September 19, 1996

2 Tuczai, E., Cortolano, F. Reformulating PVC to eliminate heavy metals and protect performance. Modern Plastics p 123-124. 1992

3 Landrigan, P. J. Commentary: environmental disease-a preventable epidemic. American Journal of Public Health 82:941-943. 1992

4 Needleman, H. L., Bellinger, D. The health effects of low level exposure to lead. Annual Review of Public Health 12:111-140. 1991

5 Committee on Environmental Health, American Academy of Pediatrics. Lead poisoning: from screening to primary prevention. Pediatrics 92:176-183. 1993

6 Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Case studies in environmental medicine: lead toxicity. Atlanta Department of Health and Human Services. 1992

7 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Report on lead in vinyl miniblinds. September 19, 1996

8 ibid

9 Health Canada. Strategy for reducing lead in children’s and other consumer products: a draft discussion document. May, 1997

10 Kelley, M., Watson, P., Thorton, D., and Halpin, T. J. Lead intoxication associated with chewing plastic wire coating. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 42:465-467. 1993

11 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Specification limit for lead in plastic miniblinds. Memo from L. E. Saltzman and C. M. Trainor to A. H. Schoem. June 14, 1996

12 Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Case studies in environmental medicine: lead toxicity. Atlanta Department of Health and Human Services. 1992

13 Landrigan, P. J. Commentary: environmental disease-a preventable epidemic. American Journal of Public Health 82:941-943. 1992

14 Erratum for Vol. 46 No. 7. Update: blood lead levels—United States, 1991-1994. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 46: 607. 1997

15 Binder, S., Matee, T. D., Kresnow, M., Houston, B., Sacks, J. J.. Lead testing of children and homes: results of a national telephone survey. Public Health Reports 111:342-346. 1996

16 Needleman, H. L., Bellinger, D. The health effects of low level exposure to lead. Annual Review of Public Health 12:111-140. 1991

17 Committee on Environmental Health, American Academy of Pediatrics. Lead poisoning: from screening to primary prevention. Pediatrics 92:176-183. 1993

18 Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Case studies in environmental medicine: lead toxicity. Atlanta Department of Health and Human Services. 1992

19 Needleman, H. L., Schell, M. A., Bellinger, D., Leviton, A., Allred, E.. N. The long-term effects of exposure to low doses of lead in childhood. The New England Journal of Medicine 322:83-88. 1990

20 Committee on Environmental Health, American Academy of Pediatrics. Lead poisoning: from screening to primary prevention. Pediatrics 92:176-183. 1993

21 Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Case studies inenvironmental medicine: lead toxicity. Atlanta Department of Health and Human Services. 1992

22 National Research Council. Measuring lead exposure in infants, children, and other sensitive populations. Washington DC. National Academy Press. 1993.

23 Schwartz, J. Low-level lead exposure and children’s IQ: a meta-analysis and search for a threshold. Environmental Research 65:42-55. 1994

24 Flegal, R. A., Smith, D. R. Lead levels in preindustrial humans. New England Journal of Medicine 326:1293-1294. 1992

25 Committee on Environmental Health, American Academy of Pediatrics. Lead poisoning: from screening to primary prevention. Pediatrics 92:176-183. 1993

26 Montague, P. How risk assessment poisoned our children. Rachel’s Hazardous Waste News #376. 1994

27 Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Case studies inenvironmental medicine: lead toxicity. Atlanta Department of Health and Human Services. 1992

28 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Evaluation of lead (Pb) in miniblinds from Arizona, North Carolina, and Virginia. Memo from B. C. Lee to M. F. Toro. July 24, 1996.

29 Kelley, C., Pichette, J., Schulze, D., Perrotta, D. M., Henry, J. P. Lead chromate exposures and elevated blood lead levels in workers in the plastics pigmenting Industry- Texas 1990. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 41:304-306. 1992

30 Skillern, C. P. Experience with burned lead-in-plastic material. American Industrial Hygiene Association. Journal 30:648-649. 1969

31 Ong, C. H., Ong, H. Y., Khoo, N. Y. Lead exposure in PVC stabilizer production. Applied Industrial Hygiene 4:39-44. 1989

32 Kelley, M., Watson, P., Thorton, D., and Halpin, T. J. Lead intoxication associated with chewing plastic wire coating. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 42:465-467. 1993

33 California Code of Regulations. Final statement of reasons. 22CCR12805.

34 California Code of Regulations. 22CCR12705 subsection b

35 Reproductive and Cancer Hazard Assessment Division, Health Hazard Assessment Division, California Department of Health Services. Risk-specific intake levels for the Proposition 65 carcinogen cadmium. 1990

36 ibid

37 Reproductive and Cancer Hazard Assessment Section, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, California Environmental Protection Agency. Draft. Evidence of developmental and reproductive toxicity of cadmium. 1996.

38 ibid

39 ibid

40 Denison, R. A., Ruston, J. Recycling and incineration. Environmental Defense Fund. Island Press. Washington, D. C., Covelo, California 1990

41 ibid

42 EPA. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Characterization of products containing lead and cadmium in municipal solid waste in the United States, 1970 to 2000. EPA/530- SW-89-015B. 1989

43 Denison, R. A., Ruston, J. Recycling and incineration. Environmental Defense Fund. Island Press. Washington, D. C., Covelo, California 1990

44 Webster, T., Connett, P. Dioxin emission inventories: the importance of large sources. Organohalogen Compounds 28:95-100. 1996

45 Committee on Environmental Health, American Academy of Pediatrics. Lead poisoning: from screening to primary prevention. Pediatrics 92:176-183. 1993

46 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Report on lead in vinyl miniblinds. September 19, 1996

47 ibid

48 ibid

49 Code of Federal Regulations 16CFR1303. Ban of lead-containing paint and certain consumer products bearing lead-containing paint. 1978

50 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Report on lead in vinyl miniblinds. September 19, 1996

51 ibid

52 EPA, Environmental Protection Agency. Guidance on identification of lead-based paint hazards. Federal Register 60: 175: 47248-47257. September 11, 1995.

53 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Evaluation of lead (Pb) in miniblinds from Arizona, North Carolina, and Virginia. Memo from B. C. Lee to M. F. Toro. July 24, 1996.

54 ibid

55 ibid

56 ibid

57 ibid

58 ibid

59 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Report on lead in vinyl miniblinds. September 19, 1996

60 Window Covering Safety Council. Memo from P. Rush, executive director, to A. Schoem, Office of Compliance, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. June 11, 1996.

61 ibid

62 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Specification Limit for Lead in Plastic Miniblinds. Memo from L. E. Saltzman and C. M. Trainor to A. H. Schoem. June 14, 1996

63 Window Covering Safety Council. Memo from P. Rush, executive director, to A. Schoem, Office of Compliance, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. June 24, 1996.

64 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Memo from A. Schoem, Office of Compliance to P. Rush, executive director, Window Covering Safety Council. July 16, 1996.

65 ibid

66 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Report on lead in vinyl miniblinds. September 19, 1996.

67 Zamora, J. 12 Firms sued in move aimed at miniblinds. San Francisco Examiner. July 17, 1996.

68 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Specification limit for lead in plastic miniblinds. Memo from L. E. Saltzman and C. M. Trainor to A. H. Schoem. June 14, 1996.

69 Tuczai, E., Cortolano, F. Reformulating PVC to eliminate heavy metals and protect performance. Modern Plastics p123-124. 1992

70 ibid

71 ibid

72 Kannan, K., Senthilkumar, K., Loganathan, B. G., Takahashi, S., Odell, D.K., Tanabe, S. Elevated accumulation of tributyltin and its breakdown products in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) found stranded along the US Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Environmental Science & Technology 31:296 - 301.1997.

73 Fent, K. Ecotoxicology of organotin compounds. Critical Reviews in Toxicology 26:1-117. 1996.

74 Colborn, T., Clement, C. Chemically-induced alterations in sexual and functional development: the wildlife/human connection. Princeton Scientific Publishing Co., Princeton, New Jersey, page 1-2. 1992

75 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Report on lead in vinyl miniblinds. September 19, 1996.

76 ibid

77 American Society for Testing and Materials. ASTM G53-96. Standard Practice for operating light- and water-exposure apparatus (fluorescent UV-condensation type) for exposure of nonmetallic materials. 1996.

78 ibid

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Authorship of the Greenpeace studies
The Greenpeace material on Lead and Cadmium was researched and written by Joseph Di Gangi, PhD and his associates.  Dr.DiGangi  is an employee of Greenpeace, and has facilities in Chicago.  Dr.  Di Gangi provided us with additional material and clarifications via email.  Dr. Di Gangi received a PhD in molecular biology and biochemistry from the University of California at Irvine in 1986, and joined the Greenpeace staff in 1997. The material on Phthalates comes from a variety of sources (authorship specified in each article)..  Three laboratory sources were used for Greenpeace's  work on vinyl toys. The lead/cadmium experimental work was conducted entirely by independent laboratories. 
*Phthalates: Greenpeace Research Laboratories, University of Exeter,   Department of Biological Sciences, Exeter, UK. Greenpeace laboratory with expertise in analysis of organic chemicals and metals.
*Lead and cadmium: Stat Analysis, Chicago, IL. AIHA and NVLAP accredited. Commercial analytical laboratory that peforms work for lead abatement companies and the Chicago Public Schools.
*Lead and cadmium: Environmental Quality Institute, (EQI) University of North Carolina-Asheville. AIHA, NVLAP, ILLAP accredited. One of the foremost lead research laboratories in the U.S. with numerous research projects conducted for the EPA, Attorney General of California, Centers for Disease Control, State of North Carolina, and City of New York.   

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