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

Greenpeace Report:   
Lead & Cadmium in Additional PVC Toy Samples from Several U. S. Cities
Replication and enlargement of original work
By Joseph Di Gangi PhD        1998 Greenpeace
2. Details of Laboratory Methods (At bottom of this page)
3. References (bottom of this page)
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To determine whether lead in vinyl consumer products represented a national problem, a representative sample of the Chicago items was purchased in a variety of U.S. cities and analyzed for lead. The U.S. cities were: Boston, MA, Boulder, CO, Chicago, IL, Los Angeles, CA, Minneapolis, MN, New Orleans, LA, New York, NY, Portland OR, San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA, and Washington, D.C. The results indicate that vinyl consumer products containing hazardous lead levels are widely available throughout the United States and in at least one major Canadian city (Table 4).
Not all of the items were available in every city, but Table 4 (below) shows that items originally found to contain lead in Chicago also contained lead in every city examined. Seventeen of the 19 items averaged greater than the 200 ppm standard recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission staff. The results also show a large variation in lead content throughout the U.S. and even in different cities within the same state. This is surprising considering that almost all of the products were purchased at national chain stores like Kmart, Wal-Mart, Target, and Toys R Us. The data suggests that a low lead or cadmium level in one city may not guarantee the safety of the same product purchased in a different store, city, state, or country.
Table 4. Lead in Vinyl Products Purchased in Various Cities

Item

Average
Lead

Low

High

Total
Tests

Cev

Cities Tested

 

(ppm)

(ppm)

(ppm)

(n)

(%)

 

backpack; Minnie’s

286

132

637

9

49

Bos, Chi, LA, Min, SF

backpack; 101 Dalm.

198

97

374

19

44

Bos, Bou, Chi, LA, Mon, Min, NO, SF, DC

backpack; Barbie

417

236

627

8

33

Chi, SF, Mon, DC

barbell; 2lb vinyl

5,271

824

8,610

6

67

Chi, SF, Sea

cable; Sega Genesis

5,045

2,490

7,160

15

21

Bos, Chi, Mon, NO, NY, SF, DC

cable; Gemini video

6,803

4,250

12,600

17

30

Bos, Chi, LA, NO, NY, SF, Sea, DC

cable; Gemini phone

2,130

393

5,350

13

91

Chi, LA, NO, NY, SF, DC

cable; Philco in-ear

4,845

3,610

6,150

13

18

Bos, Chi, LA, NO, SF, Sea, DC

cable; AT&T phone

4,203

207

7,260

6

76

Bos, Chi, Sea

key ring; Disney

836

234

1,570

4

83

Chi, SF

placemat; Space Jam

244

126

426

14

41

Bou, Chi, LA, Min, Sea, DC

rain hat; Tweety

2,631

680

4,200

8

49

Bos, Chi, LA, SF

rain coat; Columbia

23,211

16,800

28,600

9

15

Bos, Chi, LA, Mon, Por, SF

shower curtain; Spr.

665

445

889

12

27

Bos, Bou, Chi, LA, Min, NO, Sea, DC

tent pole; Barbie

5,962

2,830

12,500

17

41

Bos, Bou, Chi, LA, NO, SF, Sea, DC

totebag; Tweety

679

409

1,093

4

45

Bos, Chi

toy; L. Tunes hackey

1,774

190

7,490

8

136

Bou, Chi, NO, SF, DC

toy; KFC

177

97

420

12

50

Bos Chi, LA, Sea, SF, DC

umbrella; L. Tunes

661

416

852

14

19

Bos, Chi, LA, NO, NY, SF, Sea, DC

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One item from each city was tested. Abbreviations: Cev, coefficient of variation, the standard deviation expressed as a percent of the mean; Bos, Boston, MA; Bou, Boulder, CO; Chi, Chicago, IL; LA, Los Angeles, CA; Mon; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Min, Minneapolis, MN; NO, New Orleans, LA; NY, New York, NY; Por, Portland, OR; SF, San Francisco, CA; Sea, Seattle, WA; DC, Washington, D.C.

The overall variation in lead and cadmium levels seen in the various consumer products could occur for various reasons. Since metal stabilizers are typically added at levels greater than 5,000 ppm, vinyl items containing high amounts of lead are probably stabilized with it. Items with lower amounts of lead may reflect contamination in the manufacturing process. In addition, cadmium and lead are both used in pigments that color vinyl. Items colored with these pigments could also contain high amounts of either metal. Unfortunately, vinyl always requires some sort of metal stabilizer to protect the plastic during processing due to the presence of chlorine in the polymer . This structural obligation for metal stabilizers makes the prospect of making a "clean" vinyl product doubtful.
Laboratory Methods used in Testing for Lead & Cadmium
By Joseph Di Gangi PhD
The total lead and cadmium content of all items was measured using atomic absorption spectroscopy by Stat Analysis, Chicago, Illinois AIHA proficient, NIST/NVLAP accredited. Laboratory work was supervised by Benjamin Ruth, PhD Testing was conducted blind to prevent possible bias introduced by product recognition. Sample preparation proved to be an important determinant of variation. Complete ashing of samples in a Thermolyne 48000 muffle furnace at 480C for two hours helped reduce variation though some sample heterogeneity was observed. Nitric acid, hydrogen peroxide, hydrochloric acid and methylene chloride were reagent or analytical grade. A test tube acid digestion lead preparation procedure (AOAC 5.001-3) was combined with an organic digestion using analytical grade methylene chloride (NIOSH9076). Measurements were performed using a Varian SpectrAA200 atomic absorption spectrophotometer. All appropriate laboratory QA/QC procedures regarding standard curve tolerances were followed for all samples including use of blanks and matrix spikes every 10 samples and NIST reference standards.
Acid extractability was performed using procedures developed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.75 Studies were conducted by Stat Analysis, Chicago, Illinois. A test portion of plastic material was mixed with a 50-fold mass of 0.07 N hydrochloric acid and agitated for one hour at 37C in the dark. The material was re-extracted for two hours and then a third time for three hours. All three fractions were combined and analyzed for lead content.

Accelerated aging tests were performed using procedures developed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.76 Studies were conducted by personnel at the Environmental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, AIHA, ELLAP accredited. The project was supervised by Richard Maas, PhD, associate director of the Institute.

A weatherometer was constructed according to specifications given in ASTM G53 without the condensation features and validated by lab personnel for temperature stability and illumination.77 Even though moisture is a significant agent in degradation of materials, dry conditions were used in these aging studies to permit observations under milder, more realistic conditions. Natural and accelerated aging can be correlated if sufficient numbers of variables are compared in both methods.78 Ultraviolet lights identical to those used in the UVCON brand weatherometer were purchased from Atlas Electric Devices Company, Chicago, Illinois. The wavelength output in the 295-365 nm region provides excellent correlation with natural sunlight and outdoor exposure.

Samples were exposed to alternating cycles of six hours duration. The heat and light cycle was conducted at 50C under ultraviolet light illumination in the UV-A region. The alternate cycle was conducted at room temperature without illumination. Samples were tested in triplicate in a single blind design to prevent possible bias caused by product recognition among lab personnel. Samples were wiped at weekly intervals. One Pace Wipe was used to wipe each sample ten times. Wipes were digested and analyzed to yield lead and cadmium content per area wiped.

Lead and cadmium determinations were performed by graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrophotometry (GFAAS) using two Thermo-Jarrel-Ash Model 11 or Model 12 spectrophometers with TJA Model 774 graphite atomizers. All appropriate laboratory QA/QC procedures regarding standard curve tolerances and standard additions were followed for all samples.
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Vinyl items purchased in Chicago area national chain stores were tested for total lead at Stat Analysis, Chicago, Illinois. Stores included Disney, Kmart, Target, Toys R Us, Uncle Dan’s, Wal-Mart, and Warner Bros. In addition to information provided by product labels, all items containing lead were verified by the laboratory as PVC plastic by the Bellstein test for chlorine. Products containing above 100 ppm lead were also tested for cadmium content. A representative sample of 19 lead-containing items was selected for purchase in other cities. Not every item was found in every city. The sample included soft vinyl of various thickness, PVC-covered cable, and rigid PVC. Toys, clothing, household items, and cables were all included in the sample. Cadmium testing was restricted to items from Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Montreal, Canada to control cost. A smaller sample of 7 products was submitted in triplicate for accelerated aging experiments as described above. The sample included soft and rigid PVC products designed for use by children. Most of the items submitted for the accelerated aging study were purchased in California.

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BACK TO REPORT ON VINYL PLASTIC HAZARDS: MAIN   PAGE (INTRODUCTION)
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This report Greenpeace 1997

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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