LOS ANGELES It didnt take long for federal regulators to put new rules on what makes a consumer product a childrens product to a very public test.
Last month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission published a detailed explanation of the distinction between the two a distinction that makes a big difference because it can trigger a range of strict rules.
On Monday, commission staff declared that sets of drinking glasses depicting comic book and movie characters were indeed childrens products, undercutting the position of the importer of the glasses, which said they were marketed to adults.
That decision meant the glasses which featured images of superheroes including Superman and Wonder Woman, and characters from The Wizard of Oz such as Dorothy and the Tin Man couldnt have more than 0.03 percent lead. Lab testing commissioned by The Associated Press showed they contained up to 1,000 times that limit in their colored designs.
If they were not childrens products, there would be no limit.
As it turns out, they are. Even as the company that imported the glasses insisted they were adult collectibles, it announced it would voluntarily recall them. Vandor LLC of Utah said it would work with the CPSC to remove from circulation the approximately 72,000 glasses already sold.
The agency, meanwhile, was collecting samples of other glasses that may be deemed childrens products cited in an ongoing Associated Press investigation into dangerous metals in childrens merchandise. The agencys 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.
In all, about 160,000 glasses have been recalled by two companies since the AP disclosed Sunday that its laboratory tests showed 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.
Federal regulators have worried that toxic metals rubbing onto childrens hands can get into their mouths.
The concern is long-term, not immediate. While the superhero and Oz glasses had high levels of lead in their designs, 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 childrens products.
Soon after agency spokesman Wolfson said Monday that the CPSC considers the glasses childrens products, Warner Bros. said it would stop selling them. Then Vandor said it would pull them from the broader market.
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, according to its own tests.
Last week, while commenting on APs test results, Warner Bros. said, It is generally understood that the primary consumer for these products is an adult, usually a collector. On the entertainment giants website, however, the superhero glasses were sold alongside a lunch box and childrens T-shirts with superhero images. By late Tuesday, the glasses were no longer available.
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