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Science Technology

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

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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  • 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?
  • Re:I'm betting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @07:14PM (#32465132) Homepage Journal

    The glasses were made in China.

    My wife works as an architect on small retail projects. One client of hers made a trip to China and bought a container load of material to fit out their project. So an electrician drills into a partition, hits asbestos and shuts the site down.

    They lost a lot of money trying to save money on partitions. The funny thing is that the partition in question had stickers on it saying absolutely no asbestos. I guess there had to be a reason for that.

  • Re:I'm betting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <jwsmythe@jwsmy[ ].com ['the' in gap]> on Friday June 04, 2010 @07:30PM (#32465300) Homepage Journal

    Unless you work for the company and can confirm they didn't use their Chinese manufacturing plant, it's still up in the air.

        the press release [prnewswire.com]

    Arc International is present in five continents with production sites (France, USA, China, UAE), distribution subsidiaries (France, US, Spain, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Japan) and sales offices.

        I'd suspect small production runs and urgent items are produced locally (or relatively locally). Large low cost runs with plenty of lead time, like McDonalds would want, would likely be produced in China.

  • Re:Home Labs? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @07:37PM (#32465372) Homepage Journal


    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?)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2010 @07:45PM (#32465434)

    I would suspect years of defunding regulators and appointing industry allies in key enforcement positions.

    It's SOP for the GOP. Cases in point:
    MMS and Deepwater Horizon [nytimes.com]. ("The reports portray a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch.")

    Tax enforcement [npr.org] ("over the past dozen years, staff at the Internal Revenue Service has shrunk by about 20 percent. That affects the agency's ability to catch people who cheat on their taxes. One estimate of the annual loss in tax revenue is $300 billion.") And before anyone apologist says, "BV-b-but C-C-Clinton!", tell me who ran the House and Senate? That's right, the GOP. [newsweek.com]

    As I've already pointed out [slashdot.org], when you vote anti-government, you get sabotaged government. So let me take a page out of the right's rhetorical playbook and ask them, "Why do you hate America?"

  • Re:Anonymous? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @07:50PM (#32465482)


    Is McDonalds going to hire a hit man?

    Why would the tipster contact an elected official rather than the CPSC directly? After all, they have a web page just for this process: http://www.cpsc.gov/talk.html [cpsc.gov]

    Was there some political motivation in going thru an elected official? Is this an insider?, a Competitor? Does it matter?

  • Re:I'm betting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:00PM (#32465578) Homepage Journal

    Ah well I am an Australian and my wife is Malaysian. Most of her customers are asian and believe in always getting the Best Deal (tm). My mother in law needed a tooth removed and would have paid 500 AUD for the job so she flew to Malaysia (which she was going to do anyway) and got it done for ten bucks (our money). She doesn't need all that modern sterilisation and anaesthetics. Those things were obviously invented to trick smart people like her out of their savings.

    In Malaysia once I saw this nice watch in a street market. We drove the price down from 50RM to 10RM. Then the vendor took the case apart to install a battery. I realised later that he just put the 10RM movement in. We weren't really bargaining, just choosing.

    I am sure the warning was in Engrish. The shipment should have been flagged in customs, but its not hard to get lucky there, especially if the paperwork from china looks okay.

  • Re:I'm betting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by __aasqbs9791 ( 1402899 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:10PM (#32465654)

    In some cases it isn't that way, though. My dad was working in Egypt for about 10 years and in at least some cases, he said the dentists there were at least equal to the best dentists he's ever had Stateside, but at a much lower price. I suppose you could take that to mean he's had terrible dentists over here, but in his experience they were often American trained and seemed to do a good job. Though there were some exceptions, the same as you'd have here (you find a good one, you keep going back, and if not you never go back again).

  • Re:Home Labs? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ukemike ( 956477 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:59PM (#32466290) Homepage
    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 me) and has access to one at work, or is a geologist and has access to one at work. It is unlikely that any individuals own one of these.

    The other newer type of XRF uses some sort of x-ray tube to generate the radiation and does not have all the licensing requirements but costs even more $$.
  • Re:Home Labs? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:07PM (#32466604)

    (Did you know you can get 440 wired residential without a permit?)

    Meh. Moderately high voltage single phase AC doesn't have as many practical uses as three phase. (powerful efficient motors run on three phase)

  • 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.

  • Re:I'm betting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LaughingCoder ( 914424 ) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @08:53AM (#32468186)
    While is truth to your statement that unfettered capitalism can result in problems, it is certainly clear that government oversight is not the solution. From my perspective, government regulation does not guarantee anything other than a lack of innovation, an increase in price, shortages, and lots of do-nothing patronage "jobs" for the well-connected. See MMS, SEC, US Post Office, etc.

    I work in a highly regulated industry (medical devices) and I can tell you based on multiple decades of experience that the effect of that regulation is largely detrimental. I have seen many products which could have been extremely beneficial be delayed or de-featured due to regulatory silliness. Further, the cost of our products are dramatically increased due to the need to provide adequate "documentation" (I am convinced they weigh it to decide when you have done enough). We are forced to maintain a regulatory department that is as big as our R&D department. Everything we do has regulatory implications. When an engineer comes up with a bright idea, the first question asked is "how long will it take and how much will it cost to get it through the FDA?" Often the answers to those questions kill the project.

    BTW, did it escape your notice that this particular problem was caught by a concerned citizen, not our benevolent, nanny-state government? They were probably too busy surfing the web watching porn I suppose.

    I should hasten to add, however, that government isn't always completely incompetent. I have had personal experience with one extremely efficient government agency. They are always on top of things, have the latest in equipment, and don't miss a beat. This of course would be the IRS. Based on your signature this no doubt pleases you.

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27