The toy and jewelry industries are being urged by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to establish limits for the toxic metal cadmium, which can lead to liver and kidney damage if ingested.
The agency’s staff, citing government research in letters today, asked the industry standard-setting body, ASTM International, to revise its safety rules to eliminate the toxic metal from toys and children’s jewelry.
“If we find those standards are insufficient to protect the health and safety of consumers, then we can move to a mandatory standard,” CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said today on a conference call with reporters.
Retailers such as Dress Barn Inc. and Claire’s Boutiques Inc. recalled necklaces, earrings and bracelets this year after finding the products contained cadmium. McDonald’s Corp. offered $3 refunds in June to customers who bought “Shrek” drinking glasses with high levels of cadmium in the paint.
The staff request for industry action follows months of testing that indicated danger to children from swallowing small amounts of cadmium, according to the letters, sent to representatives of the Toy Industry Association and the Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association who lead standard- setting panels.
The CPSC had been seeking industry comment on possible rules to limit cadmium levels in consumer products. Instead of adopting regulations now, the agency is pressing for voluntary standards for exposure. Tenenbaum said that the agency is required by law to give industry a chance to craft standards before the government acts.
Agency scientists have concluded that children can safely ingest 0.1 micrograms per kilogram a day for an extended period, and 11 micrograms per day at once, Tenenbaum said. CPSC staff is recommending a test that measures the cadmium produced by dissolving an item in acid for 24 hours.
The glasses recalled by McDonald’s on June 4 probably wouldn’t be deemed hazardous using the targets with CPSC’s suggested testing method, said Jay Howell, director of the agency’s Office of Hazards Identification.
The fashion jewelry industry is concerned about the “validity and practicality of lengthy test times,” Brent Cleaveland, executive director of the Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association, said today in a statement.
Once cadmium is ingested, it remains in the body, particularly in the kidneys and liver, for years, according to a CPSC staff report included with the letters.
Cadmium, used in batteries and metal coatings, can also cause lung disease through brief inhalation of high concentrations, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Commissioner Nancy Nord, the senior Republican at the CPSC, said the agency is using proven testing methods to predict how products would likely endanger children in the real world.
“This is looking at risk based on exposure, and that is how we should approach consumer safety.”
The agency said in August that it was considering whether to grant a petition from four groups led by the Sierra Club asking that cadmium be banned unless a safe level could be established.
The groups described a “rising tide of cadmium” in children’s products as manufacturers sought a “cheap, unregulated alternative to lead,” which is subject to limits set by the agency. The Oakland, California-based Center for Environmental Health and two Rochester, New York-based consumer groups joined the Sierra Club in the request.
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