New California Cadmium Limits Increase Demands for Federal Regulations

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

North Kingston, RI—Responding to a new state law limiting cadmium in children’s jewelry that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed this week, the Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association (FJATA) once again urged consumer organizations, retailers and jewelry manufacturers to work toward a voluntary federal standard on cadmium and other heavy metals used in jewelry.

“We believe there needs to be a national voluntary standard for cadmium and other metals used in jewelry instead of a patchwork set of various state laws,” said Brent Cleaveland, FJATA’s executive director on Tuesday.

California Law Becomes ‘De Facto’ US Standard

While California is only the fourth state to impose cadmium restrictions in children’s jewelry, the state’s higher restrictions create a de facto standard for the entire country. “The volume of goods sold in California and the state’s influence over national markets means that even absent action at the federal level, the United States now has a cadmium limit,” The Associated Press (AP) reported Tuesday.

Under the new California law which becomes effective in January 2012, any jewelry sold for children age 6 and under cannot contain more than 300 parts per million total of cadmium. Connecticut, Illinois and Minnesota also passed laws restricting cadmium in children’s jewelry but at less restrictive measures at 75 parts per million.

Cadmium, a natural occurring heavy metal that is commonly used in trace amounts in jewelry and handbag hardware manufacturing, came under scrutiny earlier this year when the AP tested some children’s jewelry made in China that contained as much as 91% cadmium. Since then, the CPSC has issued six voluntary recalls of children’s jewelry and other products that were found to contain high cadmium content. Some consumer advocacy organizations are concerned that children might suck or bite jewelry containing cadmium—a known carcinogen—and be poisoned similarly to lead.

AP Investigation Fueled Restrictions

The AP’s investigation claimed that cadmium is being used as a substitute for lead in children’s metal jewelry after Congress effectively banned the use of lead following a series of safety scares over products made in China. Since then legislation calling for cadmium restrictions has been introduced into both houses of Congress and in several states.

Senator Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills, California, who introduced the California law, credited AP’s investigation for revealing the use of cadmium in children’s jewelry and prompting the law. “There is absolutely no excuse for manufacturers to use this dangerous agent in products for kids,” Pavley said.

Industry associations, however, dispute claims about cadmium and its use in jewelry. “The fact is that cadmium is not being widely substituted for lead in jewelry, and we do not see adverse health effects in either children or adults from the presence of cadmium at traditional low levels that have existed for decades,” said Cleaveland.

Indeed, no injuries or cadmium poisoning have been reported with any product that has been recalled or sold. The CPSC applies a legal guideline that simply allows action against “hazardous levels” without setting specific levels.

However, the CPSC is currently working with trade and consumer groups on establishing how to test and restrict cadmium in “toy metal jewelry.” FJATA, the Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America (MJSA) and other jewelry and hardware manufacturers have joined an ASTM voluntary group to produce a new Children’s Jewelry Safety Standard, which will address the use of all heavy metals including cadmium and other potential hazards in children’s jewelry. This standard development process is administered by ASTM International, one of the largest voluntary development organizations in the world.

ASTM Standard EN-71, which the European Union has adopted, is accepted as a test to evaluate toys, one that industry associations have urged the CPSC and governments to adopt for children’s jewelry sold in the United States. But the California and Connecticut laws are total content laws that only consider the amount of cadmium in the jewelry without regard to how much cadmium might “migrate”–or what would be absorbed into the body–if the jewelry were ingested.

Cleaveland said FJATA’s “preference is migration standards given worldwide experience demonstrating that total content limits can result in limiting consumer choice without enhancing safety.”

FJATA says AP Unfairly Pegged Jewelry Industry as ‘Guilty’

FJATA, in fact, has been highly critical of the AP’s investigation, saying that inaccuracies in the investigation “started a snowball effect that has resulted in the industry being attacked by consumer groups, becoming a political punching bag for Congress and state legislators and the target of regulators.”

Cleaveland, who recently succeeded Michael Gale who retired, has told the association’s 200 plus members that “safety is our top priority.”

In a recently completed seven-page white paper, entitled “Cadmium in Jewelry: Myths and Reality,” FJATA spells out how cadmium is used in jewelry manufacturing and what reasonable restrictions on cadmium and other metals might be followed.

“Our industry has experienced first hand the problems that adoption of total content limits divorced form risk assessment considerations impose: they result in bans of safe products or materials,” the white paper states.

“While some states have recognized that EN-71 offers an accepted, globally recognized method to achieve product safety goals, other states have adopted often arbitrary total content limits,” the white paper concludes. To read the complete white paper, click on Cadmium in Jewelry: Myths & Reality at www.fjata.org.

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