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Arsenic

Arsenic is an element that is present in both organic and inorganic forms. For example, inorganic arsenic is a naturally-occurring groundwater contaminant in some geographical regions and can also be used as a wood presevative, in the form of arsenic trioxide. Other industrial uses include the production of fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides (ATSDR 2007). Organic arsenic can be converted to the more toxic inorganic form when it is ingested and also can be found in seafood. Arsenic is can be found in children's products and may be used as a dye in textiles and plastics, although it is not fully clear how arsenic is ending up in children's products. The XRF technology does not allow us to assess the form of arsenic detected, although it is possible that the arsenic is in children’s products in the more toxic inorganic form.

Health Effects:

Inorganic and organic forms of arsenic have different toxicities. Very little is known about organic arsenic exposure, however, animal testing has suggested that acute ingestion may lead to diarrhea and chronic exposure may lead to kidney damage. The effects of inorganic arsenic, which is more toxic than organic arsenic, may vary symptomatically depending on level and route of exposure. Some of the following may apply:

  • Inorganic arsenic is a known human carcinogen. There is strong evidence that it is linked to lung, skin, and bladder cancer (ATSDR 2007, Celik 2008).
  • Inorganic arsenic may also cause skin irritation, skin color changes, blood disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and hormone disruption (ATSDR 2007).
  • Preliminary data suggest that inorganic arsenic may interfere with normal fetal development (Vahter 2009) and cause deficits in brain development and intelligence (Wasserman 2004).
  • Preliminary studies have correlated type 2 diabetes with low-level arsenic consumption, implying that drinking low levels of arsenic may lead to type 2 diabetes (Navas-Acien 2008).

Current Regulations for Arsenic in Products

  • The toy industry has established a voluntary migration standard (ASTM F973-07) for the amount of arsenic that can migrate from toys of 25 ppm. The European toy industry has established a migration standard (EN 71) of 25 ppm for arsenic.
  • On February 10, 2009 the CPSIA adopted the ASTM F973-07 limits for arsenic and other metals (view ASTM standard) as a mandatory standard.
  • California prohibits the sale of any toy in which the coating contains an arsenic compound.

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