CPSC Votes To Commence Rulemaking For High Powered Magnets

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has voted 4 – 0 to commence rulemaking for high-powered magnet sets.  According to the CPSC’s press release, CPSC staff estimate that small, high powered magnet sets were associated with 1,700 emergency room-treated injuries between 2009 and 2011, with the majority of injuries (70%) have been to children 4 to 12 years of age.

Of course, many of these magnet sets are marketed as sculptures, puzzles, and stress relievers and are labeled not for use by children. You may recall that the CPSC recently sued the maker of the Buckyballs and Buckycube desk toys – which were definitely not marketed to kids.  However, CPSC staff believes these magnet sets have strong appeal to children and pose a potential for high-severity injuries.  The CPSC has issued warnings regarding the hazards associated with these high powered magnets.

If swallowed, these magnets can link together inside a child’s intestines and clamp onto body tissues, causing intestinal obstructions, perforations, sepsis and death. Internal damage from magnets can pose serious lifelong health effects.

The CPSC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking indicates that such magnet sets will be prohibited if the set contains more than one magnet that fits through the small parts choking hazard tube unless the flux index is less than 50, as determined by the method set forth in ASTM F963-11.  The proposed rule has a 75 day public comment period.

The CPSC is specifically soliciting comment on the risks posed by magnets in science and craft kits. While I do believe the products with unexpected hazards require appropriate regulation, the key is appropriate regulation. I’m not sure a complete ban, without appropriate exclusions, is appropriate. Certainly I believe that science kits should be able to have high powered magnets, as long as appropriate warnings are provided.  Go comment, please.

My Michelle Clothing Recalled For CPSIA Lead Content Violation

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced yesterday a voluntary recall of certain girl’s clothing for violation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s (CPSIA) lead content standard. The clothing items were distributed under the name My Michelle and sold at Dillard’s, Burlington Coat Factory, Kohl’s and others. The decorative trim and attached necklaces on the clothing items have lead present above the current 300 parts per million (ppm) limit under the CPSIA.

This recall is interesting because it deals with the decorative trim items attached to clothing. Now, if you aren’t familiar with the CPSIA, let me briefly explain that the CPSIA established a lead content limit for children’s products or any part of any children’s product. The current limit is 300 ppm, and that limit is to drop to 100 ppm in August of this year unless the CPSC finds it technologically infeasible (or there is some legislative fix). Children’s products include clothing, so all parts of children’s clothing must meet the 300 ppm lead content limit.

For most fabrics, this is easy. The CPSC has deemed most textiles (undyed and dyed) to be compliant with the forthcoming 100 ppm lead content limit. So, a lot of children’s clothing manufacturers have basically starting ignoring the CPSIA since most fabrics and thread don’t need to undergo any testing to meet the lead content standard (although this ignores the other requirements, including permanent tracking labels and general textile flammability). But add bling to clothing, and you’ve got a problem. And manufacturers and importers should not forget that.

Why is this? Because a lot of bling can’t pass the lead content limits. Most true crystals – meaning glass with lead added such as the Swarovski crystals – just can’t pass. Most Swarovski crystals test at around 240,000 ppm lead. There may be no reasonable expectation of an exposure to the lead in a crystal matrix, but the CPSIA isn’t based upon exposure. No. It is based upon a limit of total lead content. So those crystals are out.

That is also true of a lot of the decorative glass beads. Those fabulous colors inside the bead often have lead in them. So they can’t be added to children’s clothing even though no risk of exposure exists.

I’ve seen a lot of children’s clothing in the marketplace recently decked out with all sorts of bling. The look of attached necklaces and other jewelry seems to be in for the tween crowd. But making sure that bling is compliant is important (even if you debate the merit of the requirement).

CPSIA Costs Not Justified If Helping Our Kids Is The Goal

Amend the CPSIA? Stop funding for the database? Hell yes.

Now, that may surprise you given my obvious desire to make this world a little bit safer for our kids. But, I think the  Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) needs quite a bit of fixing. In fact, if I had my choice, I would start over.

See, even though the CPSIA does limit lead, it does so without consideration for exposure or risk. That means that true lead crystals – such as the brilliant sparkling Swarovski crystals – are banned, since they have about 24% lead (or 240,000 ppm lead), well above the CPSIA’s current limit of 300 ppm for children’s product. That means that those true lead crystals are banned on all children’s products – from t-shirts to ice skating uniforms.

And, the CPSIA does a lot more than that, which an editorial in the New York Times seems not to understand. At all. The law isn’t limited to lead in children’s toys. It limits lead in children’s product. That means all children’s products must be certified by a third party that they meet the lead content limit, or the components used must be deemed compliant (okay, so the certification is stayed right now for products except for lead in paint/coatings and metal children’s jewelry but someday all products will require that third party accrediation). It also requires testing and certification for all consumer products under the CPSC’s jurisdiction for which there is a safety standard. So, for example, manufacturers are supposed to be certifying adult apparel as compliant with the flammability requirement, even if the manufacturer is just certifying that the fabric meets the weight exemption. It has tracking label requirements. It has a public database. It has a heck of a lot of requirements – much more than so called safer toys.

But the New York Times editorial says that is okay. The costs of the CPSIA “must be set against the enormous costs incurred by families and a society when a child is poisoned or hurt by a dangerous toy.”

If that is really the justification – the enoromous costs incurred by families and a society when a child is poisoned – than our efforts are better spent addressing the much more significant cause of childhood lead poisoning – older housing and buildings coated with lead paint. Nobody disputes that the number one cause of childhood lead poisoning is lead based paint in our older houses and buildings. Depending on whose numbers are used, between 75% and 85% of all childhood lead poisoning is linked to lead based paint in houses and buildings.

Take, for example, 3 year old Miguel de la Cruz, poisoned by lead dust created by years of opening and closing the windows of the older bungalow in which his family lived.

Or 6 year old Matthew, lead poisoned after mouthing the windowsill in his room.

Understand that 1 in 4 children in the US live in homes that pre-date the ban on the use of lead based paint in homes. And lead is also tracked into our homes from soil since lead was used for years as an additive in gasoline and blown in and tracked in from weathering of buildings and structures that use (and still may use) lead paint.

All the money spent on the CPSIA would be much better spent addressing the lead based paint hazards in our older homes, and providing education and outreach on how to live healthy in an older home.

I don’t dismiss the tragic death of 4 year old Jarnell Brown. He died after swallowing a heart-shaped pendant on a bracelet given away with a pair of Reebok shoes. But the situation of Jarnell Brown isn’t even addressed by the CPSIA specifically because the bracelent was intended for an adult. It wasn’t a children’s product so the CPSIA lead content limits wouldn’t even apply.

If the CPSIA was drafted properly, it would address actual risks and exposures.

Lead used in jewelry items intended for children would be banned because it is likely that children will mouth or swallow such items.

Lead used in PVC products intended for children would be banned because it is likely that children will transfer lead dust to their mouths as the product wears, or that younger children will mouth the PVC items.

Lead in Swarovski crystals? Not really an issue. I don’t think anybody is going to swallow enough lead crystal to make a different.

Lead in component parts of ATVs, bicycles and other such producs? Not really an issue, unless the lead is in a PVC grip on the handle bar.

 It seems to me that the critical goal is to make the world a safer place for our children. We should spend our money and time doing just that. Not banning bling.

Getting Ready for the CPSIA’s GCC Requirement for Flammability for Clothing Textiles

If you manufacture or import adult clothing, you may not be following the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s (CPSIA) developments closely. Since it is mostly considered a law that impacts children’s products, it seems that those who manufacture or import products for adults think it is not relevant.

But you would be wrong.

And you may not know that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has lifted the stay of enforcement on certification for compliance with the flammability for certain ADULT products – vinyl plastic film, clothing textiles and carpets and rugs. So, effective January 26, 2011, manufacturers must certify compliance for non-children’s products subject to the CPSC regulations pertaining to vinyl plastic films, carpets and rugs, and clothing textiles.

What this means is that for subject products manufactured after January 26, 2011, the manufacturer (or importer) must provide general conformity certificates (GCC) certifying that the products meet their respect requirements – for carpets and rugs, 16 CFR parts 1630 and 1631; for vinyl plastic film, 16 CFR part 1611; and for wearing apparel, 16 CFR part 1610. In other words, every manufacturer of a non-children’s product (and the private labeler of such product if the product bears a private label) subject to regulations pertaining to carpets and rugs, vinyl plastic film, or wearing apparel, whose product is imported for consumption or warehousing or distributed in commerce must issue a GCC for that product.

So, for wearing apparel, non-children’s products manufactured after January 26, 2011 must not only meet the requirements of 16 CFR part 1610 but the manufacturer must issue GCCs certifying compliance to that standard.

What are the requirements?

Well, fifrst, the requirements apply to clothing and textiles intended to be used for clothing. Gloves, hats, footwear and interlining fabrics are generally exempt. Also, plain surface fabrics, regardless of fiber content, weighing 2.6 ounces per square  yard or more are exempt. So, a  manufacturer can issue a GCC certifying this exemption applies. Also exempt are all fabrics, both plain surface and raised-fiber surface textiles, regardless of weight, made entirely from any of the following fibers or entirely from combination of the following fibers: acrylic, modacrylic, nylon, olefin, polyester or wool.

If none of these exemptions apply, then the manufacturer must be able to certify compliance with the standard.

And if you are manufacturing children’s products subject to this regulatiosn, you are not home free. Those already required third party testing. In fact, the CPSC issued this notice of lifting the stay to clarify its position with respect to non-children’s products subject to CPSC regulations pertaining to carpets and rugs, vinyl plastic film, and wearing apparel. The CPSC previously issued a notice lifting the stay for children’s products subject to CPSC regulations pertaining to carpets and rugs, vinyl plastic film and wearing apparel, but many were confused whether non-children’s products were included.

The Smart Mama Gets Her Gun on Good Day LA

Okay, so here I am on Good Day LA talking about lead, cadmium and other safety concerns when it comes to toys. I thought I had done so well, but watching the clip, I realized I misspoke a couple of times. It was 3,800 ppm not 38,000 ppm the Niton XRF was detecting – 3,800 ppm amounts to 0.38%. Oh well!

But, I did get to emphasize how toys are safer than ever in the US. And, more importantly, I got to plug the Handmade Toy Alliance

From my behind the scenes view, everybody associated with the show was wonderful. The hosts were gracious and really fun.

How Much Lead is in Your Toys?: MyFoxLA.com

AIHA Responds to USA Today Article

So, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has written a letter to the editor in response to the USA Today article featuring me and other bloggers. When I got the Google alert with my name, and the brief summary, my heart started pounding. I was thinking what the heck could the AIHA say about me in response to that article? I was actually scared.

Okay, and then I read it. And, I have to say, it is a tad annoying.

The AIHA letter to the editor tackles the appropriate use of the XRF analyzer for regulatory purposes. But that wasn’t even discussed in the USA Today article. And, what is even more annoying is that the letter to the editor gives the mistaken impression that you can’t use the XRF analyzer and get acceptable results, which isn’t true.

So, let me respond. And, let me just disclose (before I get some comments that I’m shilling) that I don’t work for the manufacturer of the device.

I’ll give the AIHA this. It is true that you cannot use the XRF analyzer to satisfy the requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) for children’s metal jewelry manufactured after March 23, 2009. Children’s metal jewelry manufactured after March 23, 2009 must tested by an accredited third party laboratory, and the testing that is required is a digestive testing method (Test Method CPSC-CH-E1001-08 or 2005 CPSC Laboratory SOP).

However, it is incorrect to state that the XRF analyzer cannot be used to screen children’s metal jewelry manufactured before that date for compliance with the children’s product lead content standard. Of course, the operator must recognize the limitations of the equipment. And, there may be sample preparation requirements and adjustments for substrate.

But don’t let the AIHA fool you. The CPSC, as well as a host of other agencies, such as the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), use XRF analyzers to screen products in the field. In fact, the CPSC and the DTSC both use XRF to screen metal children’s jewelry to evaluate pieces for further testing. You can’t beat the XRF analyzer for a portable, non destructive way of screening products.

And, the CPSC has approved the use of XRF technology in certain circumstances. No doubt, the CPSC approvses the use of XRF on homogenous plastics. The CPSC recognizes that using XRF for paints and coatings may be acceptable if suitable analytical methods and standards are developed. 

The AIHA letter to the editor overlooks (or intentionally omits) the approval that the US Environmental Protection Agency has given to the use of XRF in the characterization of contaminated sites, and the approval that the US EPA and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development have given for XRF in dealing with lead based paint hazards.

Just my two cents.

The Story of Cosmetics and the Dangers of “Scare” Legislation

If you read this blog, you’ll know that the beauty product industry and misleading claims of natural or earth-friendly really annoys me.

So, I was excited when I learned that The Story of Stuff Project, in conjunction with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, was releasing a new video – The Story of Cosmetics. (And, in the interest of full disclosure, 3 Green Angels has been hired by The Story of Stuff Project and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to host an #ecowed Twitter party to promote The Story of Cosmetics.)

The video is really great – informative, clear, concise. I was thrilled that the video targets some big name cosmetic companies. Absolutely thrilled it mentioned L’Oreal’s pinkwashing. Ecstatic that the video talks about misleading claims of natural. You really should watch the video:

But I do have an issue with the desired action urged – legislation to regulate the cosmetic industry based upon the precautionary principle. I do think that the current regulatory scheme leaves a lot to be desired. I do think that chemicals used as ingredients in beauty products should be more thoroughly assessed, particularly for endpoints such as reproductive harm. I don’t think that you should need a chemistry degree to buy products.

But I can’t advocate for legislation without knowing more. Without knowing exactly how the legislation is worded.

I am too familiar with bad legislation developed in response to scare tactics. Legislation that harms small businesses.  For example, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) seemed fantastic with its marketing spin – let’s get lead out of children’s toys. And with that I wholeheartedly agreed. But, of course, the legislation wasn’t just about getting rid of lead in children’s toys where there was a risk of exposure. No. The CPSIA went way too far. Even the lead regulations reach too far – beyond risk of actual exposure. Rick Woldenberg repeatedly blogs about it and the just plain stupid and unduly burdensome reach of the CPSIA. Like the impacts on the ATV industry. On bicycles for kids. Even the loss of bling (and while getting crystals out of children’s clothing isn’t necessarily a bad thing, without a risk of exposure, it is stupid). And the CPSIA imposes too many burdens on the smaller, often greener businesses that should be selling toys to our kids. The kinds of companies featured in the Handmade Toy Alliance’s blog week, which features some dynamite companies and products.

And all the money being spent on testing products for lead that pose no risk of exposure would be much better spent addressing lead based paint in residential housing. With a much more significant reduction in risk.

Now, I know that I often use my XRF analyzer to bring attention to products being sold that aren’t compliant with the CPSIA. That is because the CPSIA is the law we have, and companies need to comply with it. But I still can think the portions of the law are silly. Just like I frequently have to help companies comply with California’s Proposition 65 even if I think Proposition 65 is a bad law.

In any event, I bring the CPSIA up after watching The Story of Cosmetics because well intentioned legislation can go badly wrong.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t urge you to understand what it is you are buying. To adopt the precautionary principle in your purchasing decisions.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t think we should advocate for sensible legislation and regulations.

But that’s it – the legislation and/or regulations must be sensible. And that is hard to do. The devil is in the details. Overbroad legislation has unintended consequences and collateral damage.

As said by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis:

The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding

Disney Princess Pants from Macy’s Have Lead in Belt Buckle – CPSIA Fail?

Having tested a lot of consumer products in the last two years, I’ve got a pretty good sense of what will pass and what will fail the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s (CPSIA) lead content limits. So when I stumbled across the pictured Disney Princess jeans with belt at Macy’s last week, I was surprised. Because the sparkling rhinestones in the belt buckle just screamed at me potential CPSIA fail. So I had to buy them and test.

Now, before I tell you the results, let me catch up any readers unfamiliar with the CPSIA. The CPSIA sets lead content limits for all children’s products. The current limit is 300 parts per million (ppm). With very  limited exceptions, this lead content limit applies to all children’s products within the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) jurisdiction, regardless of whether or not there is a risk of exposure. That particular point is a subject of much debate, which we will leave for another post. For more information on the CPSIA, you might want to start with my post about what is covered by the law.

Now, most crystals used to give cosnumer products “bling” contain lead – lead is added to glass to make crystal. So, for example, most Swarovski crystals test at around 230,000 ppm total lead. And therefore, such crystals, as well as lead containing rhinestones and glass beads, are banned from children’s clothing. A request from the Fashion Jewelry Trade Association for an exclusion from the lead content limits for crystal and glass bead products was denied by the CPSC. Basically, even thought the CPSC staff and commissioners found the risk of exposure was very low, the CPSIA doesn’t allow for such concerns. Walter Olsen over at Overlawyered discusses this problem as it relates to bling with great insight.

I’ve tested and spoken with many manufacturers/companies, many of whom destroyed inventory and abandoned bling items because of the CPSIA. The vast majority of these were small companies, and they suffered tremendously by the loss of inventory. So it makes me a little, okay a lot, angry when larger companies seem to ignore or even flaunt the CPSIA.

So back to these Disney Princess pants. The tag inside just says “Disney Princess” and the RN number indicates the manufacturer is Wear Me Apparel, LLC (RN 46795).  The style number is 18427034 with a UPC of 795050388023. The pants are size 5 girl, so clearly they are a children’s product, subject to the CPSIA lead content limit.

The results? Using the Niton XRF analyzer, I tested the belt buckle at 130,000 ppm lead. Now, it is hard to test a belt buckle in place, without disassembling the belt from the buckle. So the results may not be completely accurate. And, as always, I would recommend further wet testing for a more accurate result.

I would say that this has the potential to be a CPSIA violation.

Moreover, the belt itself seems to have cadmium in it, albeit at a low level. The belt is three layers – a pink vinyl layer, a foam layer, and then a white layer, apparently vinyl. When I test all three layers together, I get a reading of cadmium at 130 ppm and a lead reading of 14 ppm. Now, to test these layers properly, the belt should be disassambled, and the layers screened with the XRF with sufficient thickness. However, since I plan to return these pants, I did not do that.

In any event, I’ve reported my findings to the CPSC because I think all companies should comply with the CPSIA.

CPSC Chair Warns Parents – Take Cheap Metal Jewelry Away From Kids

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairperson Inez Tenenbaum issued an unprecedented warning in On Safety, the CPSC’s blog – don’t give  children cheap metal jewelry. Just don’t. This warning follows the recently released investigation by the Associated Press that found high levels of cadmium in children’s jewelry.

In the blog, Tenenbaum writes:

I have a message for parents, grandparents and caregives: Do not allow young children to be given or to play with cheap metal jewelry, especially when they are unsupervised.

We have proof that lead in children’s jewelry is dangerous and was pervasive in the marketplace. To prevent young chidlren from possibly being exposed to lead, cadmium or any other hazardous metal, take the jewelry away.

This warning really is unprecedented. Even after Jarnell Brown, a 4 year old boy, died in March 2006 from ingesting a charm that was nearly pure lead, the CPSC didn’t issue such a warning. Since then it has recalled more than 180 million units of metal jewelry because of high levels of lead, but it never issued such a warning. It really highlights that this CPSC is a much different agency under President Obama, as I posted yesterday following my conversation with CPSC Spokesperson Scott Wolfson.

And Tenenbaum’s warning is right on if you are concerned about exposure to cadmium, which, like lead interferes with brain development. Cadmium also causes cancer.

Cadmium is shiny and cheap, especially since cadmium’s price continues to drop as we switch out of nickel-cadmium batteries. So if a manufacturer has a choice between using cadmium or zinc alloy, the usual substitute for lead, the manufacturer will select the less expensive cadmium. Cadmium is also malleable at lower temperatures than zinc. And since cadmium isn’t regulated under the CPSIA, manufacturers can use it. That being said, it looks likely that the CPSC will act to declare high levels of cadmium in children’s jewelry to constitute banned hazardous substances under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.

TheSmartMama Investigates – Found Cadmium Jewelry at Target

After the Associated Press released the results of its investigation evaluating toxic cadmium in children’s jewelry on Sunday as a substitute for lead, I posted that using cadmium in jewelry pre-dated the lead content limits of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), but that I had seen an upswing in cadmium in jewelry and vinyl since the CPSIA. Cadmium in jewelry seems to have been more widely used since 2003, when cadmium prices dropped.  The thing about cadmium is that it is shiny, strong and malleable at low temperatures – lower temperatures than zinc, the usual substitute for lead in jewelry.

I also decided to use my Niton XRF analyzer to do some super sleuthing a la Nancy Drew.

target necklaceI purchased two necklaces from the girls’ section at Target on December 12, 2009. These necklaces are clearly intended for children – they are sold in the girl’s clothing department and the length is shorter than what would be common for an adult. So, I tested them. One tested fine, but the other tested high for cadmium. Using the Niton XRF analyzer, the heart shaped charm tested at 22,000 ppm cadmium and the star shaped charm tested at 64,000 ppm. Now, the “rhinestones” interfere a bit with the results, as does the shape of each charm, and since I didn’t want to damage the piece, I didn’t pry out the “rhinestones” or hammer the shape into something a bit easier to test. So, if Target was my client, then I would recommend wet testing to verify the results. But there is no doubt that both of these charms contain cadmium.

Charms are always problemmatic because kids have a tendency to stick them in their mouth. While these are intended for children old enough to know NOT to stick them in their mouths, I know that virtually every little girl I know mouths or sucks on their necklaces. Cadmium is a problem if swallowed, and can also result in low level exposures just from mouthing,

I know that since the Associated Press broke its story, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has reacted quickly to address the issues. CPSC Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum has made remarks at an international toy fair in Hong Kong urging manufacturers not to substitute cadmium in place of lead.

I had a great conversation with Scott Wolfson, CPSC spokesperson. It was actually a pleasure to speak with him, and his comments emphasized the dramatic change at the CPSC under President Obama. He stated that the CPSC is aiming for true clarity in the Asian marketplace, which seems very consistent with Tenenbaum’s comments in Asia following the cadmium. Wolfson however did state that parents may want to steer clear of lower cost jewelry if they are concerned about exposure.

Cadmium in children’s jewelry isn’t regulated under the CPSIA. There is a standard for soluble cadmium in paints and coatings used on children’s toys, but this standard isn’t applicable to metal worked into children’s jewelry. However, the CPSC can address the issue under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA). The CPSC can find the jewelry items to be “banned hazardous substances” under the FHSA if it finds that the items contain quantities of cadmium sufficient to cause substantial illness as a result of reasonably foreseeable handling or use, including reasonably foreseeable ingestion by children.

And this seems like good advice in light of  comments from jewelry industry representatives like He Huihua, manager of the Suiyuan Jewelry Shop in Yiwu. As reported by the Associated Press, he stated, “We just make what our clients order. If they pay more, we use the better raw material, and vice-versa. From a few cents to a few dollars, we can make the same style of jewelry product with a different raw material.” In response to a question regarding the health risks associated with cadmium, he answered “I can’t be overly concerned about that.” The AP reports “interviews with more than a dozen manufacturers and sellers in Yiwu confirm that cadmium is a common ingredient in the earrings, bracelts, charms and other baubles being churned out by local factories.”

When it comes to jewelry, zinc alloys cost more than cadmium, so with everybody wanting lower prices, substituting cadmium seems to make financial sense. Unfortunately.