MILLVILLE, N.J. -- McDonald's on Friday recalled 12 million cadmium-tainted "Shrek" drinking glasses, raising questions about the safety of millions of similar cheap promotional products that have been sitting in Americans' kitchen cabinets for years.
Only glasses produced for the latest "Shrek" movie are included in the voluntary recall announced Friday by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, but they were made by a company that McDonald's has worked with for 15 years.
And many other companies make similar glassware with cartoon characters or other designs baked in.
"It could have been any glass company," said Ron Biagi, an executive with Arc International, which made the glasses. "We all do the same thing using materials from the same suppliers."
McDonald's said the U.S.-made glasses met federal guidelines for cadmium under testing conducted by a CPSC-approved lab. CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said the glasses fall short of standards that the agency is in the process of developing for the toxic metal.
The CPSC warned consumers to immediately stop using the glasses McDonald's sold as part of a promotional campaign for the movie "Shrek Forever After." The fast-food giant said it issued the recall "in an abundance of caution" and "in light of CPSC's evolving assessment of standards for consumer products."
"We believe the Shrek glassware is safe for consumer use," McDonald's USA spokesman Bill Whitman said.
"However, again to ensure that our customers receive safe products from us, we made the decision to stop selling them and voluntarily recall these products effective immediately."
Cadmium is a carcinogen that research shows also can cause bone softening and severe kidney problems. Research also suggests that it can, like lead, hinder brain development in the very young.
The CPSC said in its recall notice that long-term exposure to the element "can cause adverse health effects."
In the case of the Shrek-themed glasses, the potential danger would be long-term exposure to low levels of cadmium, which could leach onto a child's hand and enter the body if the child puts that unwashed hand to his or her mouth.
Concerns about cadmium exposure emerged in January, when The Associated Press reported that some items of children's jewelry sold at major national chains contained up to 91 percent of the metal.
Federal regulators have recalled many pieces of jewelry containing cadmium.