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Children's Jewelry Makers Have Until December to Limit Cadmium Content

September 22, 2011 By Kyle Richardson

The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a statement Friday giving the makers of children's jewelry three months to create voluntary limits regarding cadmium content. In a notice published in the Federal Register, the CPSC said that its staff would begin drafting a proposed rule if the industry did not create standards to police itself by December 16, 2011.

In its statement, the CPSC tasked ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, to evaluate the risks of cadmium and come up with a voluntary set of guidelines regarding its use in jewelry, specifically jewelry that could be labeled a "children's product." If ASTM International is able to create voluntary standards, CPSC staff will have nine months to evaluate the guidelines as well as determine whether they are being adequately followed by manufacturers.

Should CPSC staff find that the voluntary proposals are inadequate, or that they are not being adhered to, they will begin drafting a proposal that would legally enforce restrictions on the material. Further, if ASTM International is unable to create standards by December 16, or is unable to determine a safe level of the material, the CPSC will enact a ban on cadmium until a safe level is established.

Cadmium is a soft metal used in batteries as well as in a number of compounds. Since the passing of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), it has been increasingly used in place of lead in children's products. However, like lead, cadmium is toxic and can lead to liver and kidney damage when ingested, and has been linked to some forms of cancer.

"Since January of 2010, I have been abundantly clear with manufacturers, importers and distributors of children's products that I would not allow cadmium to replace lead as the next children's product safety scare for parents," said Inez Tenenbaum, chairman of the CPSC. "Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal for which exposure in large amounts can have acute adverse effects on children. Cadmium's primary damage occurs to the kidneys. The effects of cadmium ingestion are cumulative and can lead to chronic effects later in life."

In May 2010, a petition from the Empire State Consumer Project, the Sierra Club, the Center for Environmental Health, and the Rochesterians Against the Misuse of Pesticides asked the CPSC to ban cadmium in all toy jewelry and similar products intended for children. The CPSC deferred the decision until September 6, 2011, when the petition was granted.

CPSC chairman Tenenbaum and commissioners Thomas Moore and Robert Adler voted to grant the petition, while commissioners Nancy Nord and Anne Northup requested an additional six months to research and develop voluntary standards. CPSC staff had recommended waiting an additional six months to allow ASTM International to finish its voluntary standard development process.

"My major concern about this action is that the majority is signaling its willingness to short-circuit the voluntary standard development process," Nord said in a statement issued after the vote. "Why participate in that process if the Commission circumvents the process before the participants complete their work? Promises of collaboration ring hollow when the majority proceeds by imposing unrealistic deadlines."

Nord said that the voluntary standard for cadmium was nearly complete as of the September 6 vote, and added that she expected it will be published prior to the December 16 deadline.



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