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.

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.

Cadmium Prompts CPSC Recall of McDonald’s Shrek Forever After Promotional Glasses

You pull in to the drive through at McDonald’s and you place your order. And then you ask for some cadmium on the side.

What? You don’t want cadmium when you go to McDonald’s? Well, then don’t order the French fries (just so you know, fries generally have 0.06 parts per million or “ppm” cadmium). (For reference and before you panic, low levels of cadmium are found in many items we eat. But the most common source of cadmium exposure for Americans is cigarette smoke.)

And don’t buy the new promotional Shrek Forever After glasses at McDonald’s, because, well, the painted decorations have cadmium.

Yep, that’s right. Cadmium.

Not what you wanted or expected, is it?

But it is true. And today the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a voluntary recall of those promotional Shrek Forever After glasses. 12 million of those glasses.

I was one of the people to submit the information to the CPSC. I used my Thermo Fisher Scientific Niton XRF analyzer to test all of the current promotional Shrek Forever After glasses – Donkey, Shrek, Fiona and Puss in Boots. And I found cadmium. The cadmium levels varied with the paint color. Historically, cadmium has been used in paint to get yellow to deep red hues.

In the Fiona glass, I detected 1,049 ppm cadmium in the baby’s face. I detected no cadmium in Fiona’s dress (at the sleeve) but did find 10,900 ppm chromium.

In Puss in Boots, I detected cadmium at 1,378 ppm in the red pillow on which Puss rests, 1,048 ppm cadmium in the orange part of Puss, and 1,575 ppm cadmium in the yellow lion on which the Gingerbread Man sits. The Puss figure on the back (in the orange) was 1,707 ppm cadmium and 3,721 ppm chromium.

I detected 1,020 ppm in the green used on the Shrek glass. The yellow on that glass (at the Fiona Wanted sign) was 1,946  ppm cadmium.

Now, since the paint on the glasses is a thin film, it is possible that the cadmium levels are actually higher in the paint because the analyzer penetrates the glass, and the glass doesn’t have any cadmium. And, the XRF analyzer detects total and not soluble levels, which, as we know from the Zhu Zhu pets fiasco, is a big difference.

The real question is – does the cadmium matter? Cadmium is considered more toxic than lead and exposure is linked to a number of health problems. Cadmium is a carcinogen. Ingestion of low levels of cadmium can lead to kidney damage and fragile bones. The CPSC’s recall announcement states that “[c]onsumers should stop using recalled products immediately.”

But can you get exposed from cadmium in the painted decorations on the outside of these glasses? The painted decorations are unlikely to leach into liquids contained in the glasses – the decorations are on the outside. The decorations are also below what is known as the “lip and rim area” – or the area where you put your mouth to drink out of the glass – so you are not likely to actually put the painted decorations in your mouth.

However, you can get wear and transfer from the decorations to your hands. While dermal absorption of cadmium is very low, the exposure occurs as cadmium is transferred to your hands and then your mouth or your food. Think about it – drink out of the glass, eat a french fry or your chicken nuggets. Are you going to wash your hands in between? Nope.

Also, washing the glasses can result in contamination of other dishes. In an automatic dishwasher, the heat and intensity of the water hitting the glasses can cause the decorations to deteriorate. Unfortunately, the cadmium can contaminate other dinnerware placed in the dishwasher – although the rinse cycle may remove all or some of it.

Does it matter? Well, there isn’t an applicable regulatory standard (see below), but you may want to avoid the glasses.

Why is there even cadmium in a children’s product (and is this a children’s product?)? Earlier this year, there were several high profile recalls of cadmium in children’s jewelry. But, the thing is, there isn’t any comprehensive federal regulation addressing cadmium in children’s products.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) does NOT have a limit for total cadmium. It does implement a standard for soluble cadmium in paints and coatings used on children’s toys (because the CPSIA makes mandatory the ASTM F963 toy standard). That standard is 75 ppm cadmium (soluble). But the CPSIA doesn’t have a cadmium standard for all children’s products as the CPSIA does for lead.

The CPSC has recalled cadmium children’s products (including the previously mentioned children’s jewelry items) under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA). The FHSA allows the CPSC to find an item to be a “banned hazardous substance” if the level of cadmium is sufficient to cause substantial illness as a result of reasonably foreseeable handling or use, including reasonably foreseeable ingestion by children.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a standard for cadmium (and lead) in ceramic articles, flatware and hollowware used for food storage. The standard is based upon extractable or leachable cadmium (and lead) and not total cadmium as measured by the XRF.

In addition to this standard, there is a voluntary industry standard for lead and cadmium in the lip and rim area. These limits are not more than 4 ppm of lead and not more than 0.4 ppm for cadmium leachable from the lip and rim area. And, as discussed above, the Shrek decorations are outside the lip and rim area.

In California, there is Proposition 65, which requires a warning before exposing consumers to chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer or reproductive or other developmental harm. Cadmium is included on the Proposition 65 list. Proposition 65’s levels are based upon exposure, so various settlements (known as consent judgments) have established content levels in various articles. Under what is known as the Boelter settlement, decorations on glassware outside the lip and rim area can contain no more than 4,800 ppm cadmium (tested by a digestive test or a separate standard for wipe tests), which is higher than the results I got (for total cadmium, although caveat mentioned above about thin film).

Minnesota also has a law regulating cadmium in paints and the like. Specifically, Minnesota law bans the intentional introduction or incidental presence above 100 parts per million of lead, cadmium, mercury or hexavalent chromium into any pigment, paint, dye, ink or fungicides used or sold in the state after 1998.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier from California also made the CPSC aware of this issue.  It appears that Congresswoman Speier’s efforts were instrumental in the recall.  Given the lack of an applicable regulatory standard, whether the recall was necessary or not is open to debate.

(Please note – I updated this post to clarify the Boelter settlement levels. I inadvertently dropped part of a sentence, so I had a lip and rim area level confused with a non lip and rim area limit.)

(Please note further – While I am an attorney, my testing of these Shrek glasses had nothing to do with my legal practice. My use of the XRF for testing stems from being a former environmental engineer, a mom and a consultant that has access to the device & uses it. I am not involved in any lawsuit or claim against McDonald’s related to these glasses. I have received no monetary benefit from testing these glasses or the recall.)


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.

Toxic cadmium found in children’s jewelry

bigstockphoto_Just_Out_Shopping_233(Updated January 13, 2010 – I made a mistake in one of the ppm statement which is now corrected.)

Did you think lead was the only concern in children’s jewelry? Unfortunately, no.

The Associated Press reports that Chinese manufacturers are switching to the toxic metal cadmium in children’s jewelry because they are barred from using lead under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). To be honest, I’m not sure that it completely accurate. As stated in the article, jewelry industry veterans say that cadmium has been used in products for Chinese markets for years. I think many of those were imported into the US as well. In my experience testing using my Niton XRF Analyzer, I found cadmium in children’s jewelry before the CPSIA was enacted, although it is probably true that manufacturers looking for a substitute for lead because of the CPSIA may be turning to cadmium, especially since the price of cadmium has plummeted recently, although the more common replacement for lead is zinc.

In any event, the AP articles reports on its investigation involving 103 children’s jewelry items, almost all of which were purchased in November and December of last year. Those 103 items were tested, and 12 of the items contained at least 10% cadmium (or more than 100,000 ppm cadmium). Included in this list are pendants featuring “The Princess and The Frog” characters. The items were purchased at Walmart, Claire’s and a dollar store. In addition, two other items contained lower amounts of cadmium, and 89 of the items were free of cadmium.

According to the AP story, the most contaminated piece was a shocking 91% cadmium by weight, or 910,000 ppm. Other jewelry items tested at 89%, 86% and 84% cadmium by weight.

Cadmium is a known carcinogen. It is also listed on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm as a reproductive toxicant for males.

Kids don’t have to swallow an item to be exposed. They can get low level doses of cadmium by mouthing, biting or sucking on the jewelry items, as kids tend to do.

The AP investigation also tested the items with high cadmium to see if any exposure would occur if the items were swallowed. This testing involved an acid bath designed to mimic stomach acid. Three flip flop bracelet charms sold at Walmart contained between 84 and 86 percent cadmium. These charms fared the worst in the stormach acid test. One of the charms leached more cadmium in 24 hours than what the World Health Organization would deem a safe exposure over 60 weeks for a 33 pound child.

In several tweets on Sunday, Scott Wolfson. Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesperson, indicated that the CPSC would be investigating the matter and that the CPSC was on its way to China to address the issue. Keep in mind that the CPSIA does not regulate total cadmium content in children’s products. Instead, under the CPSIA, there is a limit for soluble cadmium in paints and coatings used on children’s toys. However, the CPSC can pursue products that the CPSC deems to be a public danger under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act – as it used to do for lead in children’s jewerly before the CPSIA was enacted. And, of course, in California, items that expose a consumer to significant risk level of cadmium must have a Proposition 65 warning.

In addition to jewelry as discussed in the article, I’ve also seen an increase in cadmium turning up in vinyl items. Cadmium compounds can be used to stabilize vinyl just as lead can be used, and with the regulation of lead under the CPSIA, I’ve seen many more vinyl items with cadmium in the last year in my XRF testing.