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Why do we have lead on any eating or drinking products?

Posted by Heather Hopp-Bruce  December 17, 2010 04:47 PM

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shrekglasses.jpgThe new Massachusetts ban on baby bottles and sippy cups containing BPA is a good thing, particularly because it will keep those products off the shelves in low-income neighborhoods. Since BPA may be linked to heart disease and diabetes, this ban will help keep all of us healthier and safer.

But frustration follows relief over this ban's passing. How come a nationwide community of parents and lawmakers can get together and effectively eliminate something that might cause health problems when horrific chemicals that indisputably do cause health problems are allowable at any level in any product?

The most egregious recent example of this was just last week, when the FDA shockingly changed its mind on a recall of character-decorated drinking glasses that contained up to a thousand times the federal lead allowance for children's products. After a few days of thought (or lack thereof), it was decided the glasses were actually marketed to adults, despite much anecdotal evidence otherwise. There are no Consumer Protection Safety Commission limits on the lead content allowed on the outside of adult drinking products, so after the reversal there was no legal incentive to take them off the shelves. In effect, the recall was recalled.

The surprising thing here is not so much the perplexing disregard for children's safety, but that a bigger stink wasn't raised about the disregard for adults' health as well. At this point, the policy should be obvious: Lead and its evil best friend, cadmium, should be absolutely banned in any form on any eating or drinking product, whether that product be for children or adults. There is no gray area here, no room for discussion, no dispute. We're talking about a substance that has been proven to cause major learning disabilities, behavior disorders, and kidney damage in children; and cataracts, miscarriages, memory problems, and high blood pressure in adults.

I don't know what magical qualities lead and cadmium add to the decoration on products, but if we can live with BPA-free sippies that break much more easily, we can live with chippier but nontoxic paint on our Wonder Woman drinking glasses. And if the sole reason toxic substances are used is because they are cheap or unregulated, then we'll be happy to live without those glasses at all.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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