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McDonald's, Cadmium, and Thermo Electron Niton Guns 206

Posted by timothy
from the got-one-on-my-swiss-army-knife dept.
An anonymous reader writes, snipping from a story at NPR: "'How did the Consumer Products Safety Commission find out that cadmium, a toxic metal, was present on millions of Shrek drinking glasses now being recalled by McDonald's? Well, an anonymous person with access to some pretty slick testing equipment tipped off Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) about the problem. Her office confirmed that somebody using a Thermo Electron Niton XRF testing gun found a lot of cadmium, sometimes used in yellow pigments, on the surface of the glasses. The source overnighted glasses to Speier's office last week, which then turned over the test results and specimens to the CPSC. ... By law, no more than 75 parts per million of cadmium is supposed to be present in paint on kids toys. Speier's office said the amount found on the glasses was quite a bit higher than that.' Seems like the answer to a previous question about at-home science — this blogger seems to have been one of the anonymous sources."
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McDonald's, Cadmium, and Thermo Electron Niton Guns

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  • Yay science! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2010 @07:07PM (#32465044)
    Science, saving the world one experiment at a time.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2010 @07:08PM (#32465062)

    people forget that a Thermo Electron Niton XRF testing gun now comes in every Happy Meal.

    • by JWSmythe (446288)

      I'm still waiting for them to include nuclear particle accelerators [wikipedia.org]. Imagine what fun these would be at parties. :) They'd be so much more exciting that cadmium laced drinking glasses with silly cartoons painted on them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mooingyak (720677)

      people forget that a Thermo Electron Niton XRF testing gun now comes in every Happy Meal.

      Which would really suck when my kids get annoyed that I want to play with their Happy Meal toy.

      • Now you know what gift to request for Fathers day, or at least what to drop hints about...your very own Happy Meal w/Thermo Electron Niton XRF testing gun!

        You have not played this game very long, have you?
        Put that /. user intellect to work man!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lgw (121541)

      people forget that a Thermo Electron Niton XRF testing gun now comes in every Happy Meal.

      Except in Santa Clara, of course, where Happy Meal toys were outlawed with no appreciation of their scientific usefulness!

    • by JamesP (688957)
      Well no it doesn't.

      This may allow kids to prove the earth is older than 5000 years so...
  • Home Science? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ReneeJade (1649107) <reneejadew@gmail.com> on Friday June 04, 2010 @07:13PM (#32465118)
    Doesn't it seem more likely that the original discoverer worked in a different professional lab, rather than having that sort of equipment at home?
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Whats a few thousand $ to a middle class US family?
      Blogs and news reports have talked of this device and anyone can learn to use it.
      From hand held testing in a scrap yards to suburbia - equipment is now much cheaper.
      The gov is not testing, the companies dance around 'limits' and law makers set few binding targets.
    • Re:Home Science? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by luckytroll (68214) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @08:53AM (#32468184) Homepage

      I have access to one of these via my wife, who is using one to do research on soil metals for her Phd. I have to ask nicely to get access, because it has a radioactive source of ionizing radiation in it, but I could get it if I was really curious. The things are so handy, theyre more prevalent than you might think.

  • Home Labs? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MagusSlurpy (592575) on Friday June 04, 2010 @07:14PM (#32465136) Homepage
    This isn't an argument supporting the validity of "home labs." Those handheld XRFs are about $30K. I'd love to have one in MY home lab, where the most expensive equipment is a $300 distillation kit that I had to save for six months to justify.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gillbates (106458)

      Well!

      Some geeks' home labs are more equal than others. Now, back to winding the coils for my particle accelerator... (Did you know you can get 440 wired residential without a permit?)

      • Did you know you can get 440...

        No, but you can get 220 from two different outlets, if they are on different circuits and you have 3 phase wiring to your building. You need to make a really nasty "Y" shaped extension cord thingy and plug two ends of the Y into different sockets... probably not OSHA approved.

        But, what the hell, you wouldn't make such a thing if you didn't want a 220 outlet in a building only wired for 110, right? :-)
        • by mirix (1649853)

          It's still single phase, just the transformer supplying the house has a centre tapped winding. "split-phase".

          • I am sure you are right. I stand corrected and will stick to software... all I know is my 240V twist lock plug can power the server rack. (Don't worry I am nowhere near overloading it, and my smoke detectors will work just fine for the week it needs to be here.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by functor0 (89014)

      Well, the "Smart Mama" (Jennifer Taggert) is someone that actually makes money through her XRF gun. According to the site below, she charges $5 per test or $100 per hour.

      http://www.thesmartmama.com/xrf-testing/

      Here's a media article where two families paid her to test their toys:
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/25/AR2009122501674.html

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ukemike (956477)
      It's more complicated than that. There are two types of Niton XRFs. The most common type which has been around for a while use a radioactive source (ironically Cd109). The the sources have a fairly short half life so must be replaced every other year or so, and cost thousands of dollars. These sources are VERY strictly regulated requiring licensing at the state level and access to inspectors. There are storage and transport requirements, etc. Most likely the person is an environmental consultant (like
      • by luckytroll (68214)

        I got to play with the first kind. The serial port for uploading the data is a bitch sometimes, as is the software which I think isnt meant to run on Vista. On the other hand, the results for Lead and Manganese are suprisingly accurate compared to ICP, from what I understand from my scientist wife. (I only do the interfacing, she does the science).

        Makes me want to borrow it and go on a sampling rampage of everyday imported goods with paint on them.

  • What naturally occurring substance has the highest known melting point? Answer: Cadmium?
    • What naturally occurring substance has the highest known melting point? Answer: Cadmium?
      Tungsten? And I didn't bother to RTFA(big surprise, this is /.), but is the cadmium part of the paint or of the glass matrix itself? If in the paint that's a problem. If in the glass matrix, unless you frequently serve your guests hydrofluoric acid at which point the HF leaching calcium out of their blood will kill them long before the Cd does, it's not so much of a problem.
  • Since these glasses will be recalled, and probably not a lot were sold, they'll become an interesting deadly item for collectors.

  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Friday June 04, 2010 @07:46PM (#32465442)
    I sometimes use it to analyze soil samples in the field. Since you aren't necessarily shooting a homogeneous substance, you sometimes get results that don't reflect the overall concentration. To get meaningful data you have to send it to a fixed lab where they will extract it and get an analytical result that is more likely to reflect the real concentration.
    • by Penicillus (755795) on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:37PM (#32465814)

      I sometimes use it to analyze soil samples in the field. Since you aren't necessarily shooting a homogeneous substance, you sometimes get results that don't reflect the overall concentration. To get meaningful data you have to send it to a fixed lab where they will extract it and get an analytical result that is more likely to reflect the real concentration.

      Actually, XRFs are commonly used by industrial hygienists to determine concentrations of lead (Pb) in lead paint. In fact, the new renovation, repair and paint (RRP) law that went into effect on April 22 assumes lead is in paint on homes built before 1981, unless the paint is measured to be less than 0.5% lead. The best way to do so (per EPA) is to use an XRF to determine whether lead is present or not, and what its concentration is. Alternatively, paint chips can be analyzed for lead in a laboratory; however, one can obtain 200-300 measurements for lead in a building with an XRF, whereas one may take 10-20 paint chip samples in the same time. What I'm guessing happened is than an IH used an XRF on a glass that his/her kid brought home from McDonalds and found some aberrant spectra - the IH took those readings further, and found the spectra matched cadmium. He/She then sent the glass with the readings to the Congresswoman. Given that cadmium has been substituted for lead in kid's toys, etc. (which was prohibited by law), and cadmium is considerably more toxic than lead, the Congresswoman had the glass tested, and the recall began.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      That really depends on the area illuminated by the X-rays -- usually somewhere between a square millimeter and a square centimeter. XRF only samples the surface, though, somewhere between a micron and a millimeter, so if your sample varies significantly from the surface down, you need to address that.

    • by luckytroll (68214)

      There are a lot of methods that can ameliorate this, especially if you take samples of the soil back to the lab and process them for grain size, etc.

      Nevertheless, if you have a lot of experience with this, you might find a chat with my spouse interesting as she has done extensive analysis of the effectiveness of XRF vs ICP etc in her work of late, notably relating to lead and manganese. So far the Niton units stack up pretty well against ICP if the samples are processed well.

  • by Trailer Trash (60756) on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:00PM (#32465568) Homepage

    ...we end up with Thermo Electron Niton XRF testing guns being illegal to possess in the US.

  • Thank you Cadmium Man for alerting us to the danger!
  • I've seen these glasses on display; they appear to be actual glass, although I could have been fooled. I didn't look very hard.

    I assume the cadmium is in the paint on the exterior of the glass.

    So it isn't a surface in contact with food.

    It isn't a product that should be considered a toy. (FFS it's glass. Give the little darlings a nice razor blade to play with too.) So why does the "toy" standard apply?

    I don't really get the recall at all, but McDonald's position, afaik, is that the cadmium levels are within

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Ritchie70 (860516)

      OK, I actually read some of the linked articles. (I know, it's crazy.)

      The recall now makes a lot more sense to me.

  • I mean, honestly, if you are going to poison your kid with McDonald's, what is a little bit more poisoning with cadmium. Ailments allegedly related to cadmium exposure is cancer, kidney problems and weakened bones. In high quantities. How high are the quantities going to be with kids licking the yellow paint off the glass, even if the paint chips I suspect the real risk is to with the glass. The meal itself should be what parent worry about, especially if they eat there more than once a month Most of t
  • Oooohh...this is a toughie. Highly toxic material, slapped onto a drinking glass. Cadmium. Oh! Cadmium charm bracelets! Could it be China? Again? Why don't we learn?

[Crash programs] fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month. -- Wernher von Braun

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