The first children’s-jewelry safety scare involved lead.
Then about three years ago investigations showed some foreign manufacturers had replaced lead in fashion and costume jewelry with the cheaper, but similarly hazardous, cadmium.
So the American jewelry industry, along with state and federal governments, began working on ways to get the cadmium out of jewelry too.
For the industry, one major question stood out: would cadmium be governed by one national standard or would each state make its own rules?
The North Kingstown-based Fashion Jewelry & Accessories Trade Association, which represents more than 200 businesses in manufacturing, retailing and importing, led the industry effort to create a national cadmium standard in children’s jewelry. The group worked with ASTM International, a material standards and testing organization, to develop a scientific, minimum safe cadmium level and standard testing protocol for detecting the metal.
The cadmium limits and testing standards were accepted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, but FJATA’s hope that Congress would make them federal law, superceding all state laws, never happened.
A group of environmental organizations led by the Sierra Club petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adopt an even-stricter set of cadmium limits, and although the Consumer Product Safety Commission rejected the petition last October, some states have used that standard as the foundation of laws.
So FJATA is now working state by state to make sure the cadmium standards it helped develop spread.
“State laws are definitely causing confusion, and our mission is to cause harmonization of standards, not only nationally but globally, so you don’t have different production lines for different states,” said FJATA Executive Director Brent Cleaveland. “We are making progress.”
The industry-supported, voluntary standard allows any item with less than 300 parts per million of cadmium.
For pieces found to contain more than 300 parts per million of cadmium to be sold, they must pass a test of how much cadmium would leach off of them if digested. This agitated bath test can produce no more than 200 parts per million of cadmium.