Arsenic is an element that can be present in both organic and inorganic
compounds. For example, inorganic arsenic is a naturally-occurring groundwater
contaminant in some geographical regions. Arsenic trioxide, an inorganic
arsenic compound, is primarily used as a wood preservative though all
such arsenic is now imported and not domestically produced (ATSDR
Other industrial uses include the production of fertilizers, herbicides,
and insecticides (ATSDR
2007). Organic arsenic is present in seafood. Organic arsenic can
be converted to the more toxic inorganic form when it is ingested. It
is not clear why arsenic is showing up in some children's products,
though it may be used as a dye in textiles and plastics. 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.
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
Inorganic arsenic may also cause skin irritation, skin color changes,
blood disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and hormone disruption (ATSDR
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.