As director of public affairs at MJSA, the association for jewelry makers and designers, I spend a lot of my time monitoring the laws and regulations that might affect you as a jewelry maker. So it caught my eye one day in early 2010, when an article by the Associated Press (AP) revealed that it had obtained children’s jewelry containing a lot of cadmium, a heavy metal that’s considered a hazardous substance by the U.S. government.
I knew that cadmium had once been used in certain alloys and solders in the U.S., but had fallen out of use, due to worker safety concerns. So where was this cadmium jewelry coming from and why was it being used in children’s jewelry, when young ones might mouth such pieces or even swallow them? Further investigations by AP revealed that most of the jewelry was coming from overseas, and that, in some cases, cadmium was being used as a substitute for lead, which was banned in children’s jewelry in 2008 as part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (more on that issue in an upcoming blog post).
As you can imagine, legislators in both the U.S. Congress and in state legislatures were quickly up in arms, wondering why there weren’t specific laws banning cadmium in children’s products such as jewelry. A cascade of new bills began to be introduced, especially in the states, so I began to keep a chart of them. It quickly became apparent that the bills were all over the map—not just geographically, but also in stating limits for trace amounts of cadmium that would be allowed in jewelry. There were also several different kinds of tests for cadmium content being proposed, and even different definitions of the age range to which children’s jewelry is directed (some said kids were 6 and up; others said 12 and up).
Luckily, I wasn’t the only one worried about how jewelry makers would be able to comply with such a patchwork of legislation. While I knew that jewelers would want to ensure that children were protected, they also run businesses and needed to have clarity on what tests were needed and what the limits were.
In June 2010, a group of industry companies, testing labs, consumer groups, associations such as MJSA and the Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association (FJATA), and representatives of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) came together to form the ASTM Subcommittee on Children’s Jewelry, chaired by the FJATA. ASTM is one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations in the world and a trusted source for technical standards for materials, products, systems, and services.
The goal of the group: To produce, based on science, an ASTM Children’s Jewelry Safety Standard (including safe cadmium limits), which the CPSC could potentially adopt into national regulations that would supersede the patchwork of state laws. A year later, I’m proud to report that our ASTM subcommittee has produced that standard, which is now being voted on within ASTM. CPSC has also indicated that it will likely defer the adoption of regulations on cadmium in children’s jewelry to wait for the ASTM standard.
Among its many detailed recommendations, the standard proposes a 300 ppm total weight cadmium screening limit for cadmium in children’s jewelry, with children defined as age 12 and under. It recommends a test that most qualified labs can perform without a problem.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that in the meantime, five states have now passed varying kinds of regulations, and two of the bills are now in effect in Minnesota and Illinois. Thus, if you sell children’s jewelry into those states, you need to ensure that you or your supplier are in compliance with those laws. Here are a set of steps you can take:
- If you make precious and non-precious children’s jewelry, perform testing to comply with the laws. Both Minnesota and Illinois require a two-hour “migration” test to measure cadmium (it’s a different test than the “total weight” test that the Children’s Jewelry Safety Standard recommends). The laws both require that cadmium levels in any paint, surface coating, or accessible substrate of tested jewelry cannot exceed 75 ppm.
- If you buy precious and non-precious children’s jewelry from other vendors and you plan to sell it in Minnesota or Illinois, require the suppliers to provide documentation about the amount of cadmium in their products, as per the above testing protocols.
- When choosing a lab to screen for cadmium, ensure that it is capable of performing the “migration” testing protocols.
Membership in MJSA offers a variety of services and information to help jewelry makers begin and build their businesses. MJSA will provide members with a list of CPSC-accredited member labs that perform migration testing (and do the total weight tests that the Children’s Jewelry Safety Standard recommends). These labs can also guide you on how to sample your inventory for testing, among other issues. If you’re an MJSA member, you can also visit mjsa.org to view the MJSA Guide to Cadmium in Jewelry and to obtain the frequently updated MJSA Cadmium in Children’s Jewelry: State Law Chart.
I’ll be back on Rio’s Blog before long to give you an update on lead content laws for children’s jewelry. See you then!