dave-mittlemanMcDonald’s often capitalizes on the popularity of the newest children’s movies to help promote Happy Meals by giving away movie character-inspired toys or paraphernalia with every purchase. That’s what makes the latest recall of Shrek glasses particularly disturbing. The glasses, which have a different Shrek character printed on the side, have a high level of cadmium—a highly toxic carcinogen that can cause long-term health effects.

The CPSC announced the recall of 12 million tainted glasses after an anonymous source tipped the office of Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) off to the problem. After further inspection, the CPSC discovered that the paintings on the side of the glasses had potentially unsafe levels of cadmium. Nevertheless, McDonald’s maintains that the glassware was tested by a third-party laboratory credited by the CPSC and was found to be in compliance with existing standards for levels of cadmium prior to the rollout of the products that occurred two weeks ago.

Cadmium has received increased scrutiny in the past year, since the carcinogen can cause lung damage, low birth weight of fetuses in pregnant women, higher rates of lung cancer, liver damage, and damage to the immune system. It can also cause bones to become weaker over time. As toy manufacturers turn towards cadmium as an alternative to lead, more products have been discovered that contain cadmium at levels that are hazardous to human health. For example, Wal-Mart issued a recall of their Miley Cyrus jewelry a few months ago because of high levels of cadmium. Moreover, other products have also been linked to cadmium overexposure, including “Muscle Milk” as well as other muscle-building drinks. Since the product instructions require an individual to consume multiple glasses of the product per day, each small dose of cadmium in each drink adds up over time, resulting in over-exposure to the dangerous carcinogen.