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Let's substitute an unregulated toxin for the forbidden ones

 
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sfriedberg
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2010 5:16 pm    Post subject: Let's substitute an unregulated toxin for the forbidden ones Reply with quote

I chose the subject for this thread with extreme sarcasm. But that's what's happening.

The Associated Press just carried a story (read it in my hardcopy newspaper, so no hyperlink, sorry) about imported Chinese jewelry being made with large amounts of cadmium. By "large", they mean anywhere between 25 percent and 90 percent. NOT talking about parts per million here!

Apparently, some factories that were making cheap trinkets with low melting temperature alloys high in lead (a practice followed in the US for many years, long ago) have switched over to using alloys high in cadmium. And the CPSIA's restrictions on lead in toys is apparently a driving factor (as is the low price for cadmium in China).

While cadmium is not the "consumer scary" element that lead has become, it is toxic enough to be a concern even for adults. By some standards, it is more toxic than lead. OSHA describes cadmium as "an extremely toxic metal". The US Centers for Disease Control rank cadmium #7 on a list of nearly 300 environmental hazards. It was widely used as a corrosion-resistant plating on industrial fasteners, and has been phased out of that application as too hazardous for casual handling. It was also used in red and yellow paint pigments (in much the same role as lead.) It is still used in NiCd batteries.

The article points out that swallowing one of these cadmium-rich trinkets will give a kid, within a few hours, the equivalent of many years' of maximum-permitted-exposure.

I don't have any information beyond what's in the article, so I don't know how widespread the use of cadmium actually is in these imported trinkets, or how trustworthy the testing procedures were. But the article did make several useful points:
  • Factories are switching from forbidden toxic materials to less-regulated toxic materials instead of taking the real point and moving to non-toxic ones.
  • Despite the draconian provisions of the CPSIA, there are still major loopholes. The use of cadmium is restricted in painted toys. Cadmium in industrial scrap is controlled as hazardous material! But there are no existing regulations about permitted levels of cadmium in unpainted jewelry.
  • Use of lead has dropped dramatically, close to the CPSIA mandated limts.
  • Substitution of cadmium for lead is by no means universal. Depending on which list you look at, either 2% or 10% of the items that previously would have contained lead examined had cadmium. Zinc (which is fairly safe) is probably the most common substitution.
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Lisa Blank
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 7:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stu, I saw an online article about this yesterday but didn't get to post. I have to admit that I really wasn't surprised that the substitution has been made. After all, it's cheap and legal.
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mhswope
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

NPR had a report on this very thing this morning. Bet the laws will change.

Marguerite
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Esther
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 10:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The sad thing is that pre-CPSIA, the CPSC had the power to immediately take care of this. Now they can't because they are severely limited on how regulations can be written. All they can do is PR and eventually write a regulation that has the best, scientific standards and peer review (would take months, if not years). Of course politicians and media are jumping on the idea of a "new" law. That would be disastrous, IMO, because it wouldn't begin to address the underlying problems that now exist at the CPSC.
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Diana Pham
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 1:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for posting this. I wasn't aware of what they were using as a substitute for lead in toys. It's tangential, but this is one of the limitations of reductionistic approaches in science that lead to very myopic thinking and regulations. Another place this has happened that frustrates the heck out of me is in using chemical flame retardants in clothing, furniture, and mattresses. You're essentially trading risk of flammability for the risks of long term exposure to toxins that may not manifest their harms for decades. What's worse is that, particularly for women, you might be "ok" but the damage can be passed down to your progeny such that it's your grand children who manifest the effects of accumulated toxin exposure.

I'm working on a baby carrier and I would like it to be as safe as possible. I'm a little frustrated with the regulatory landscape because a lot of it is knee-jerk band aid fixes rather than actually addressing the issue. The entire baby carrier industry was being threatened with closure a few years ago because of a few poorly designed bag slings that resulted in injuries and death. The company who made the slings responsible for the deaths were warned repeatedly by knowledgable "baby wearers" for a while about the dangers of their design before the bags were recalled but it didn't stop regulators from trying to group all baby carriers together as "dangerous."

In the food world, people flocked to bpa-free plastic but I'm quite certain the substitute for bpa might be worse than bpa. You can't get around it because many substitutes for a harmful product will have chemical properties that are similar to the original. Well, if they have similar properties, they are also likely to have some similar harms.

In the case of people being concerned about chlorine in the pool, some have switched to bromine(!) which I would suspect is worse than chlorine. Sorry I went off on a tangent. ...

The bottom line is I am working on a baby carrier, and I'm trying to source a fabric that is as safe as it can be and looking at what it doesn't contain is not enough because the substitutes may be just as bad.
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Kathleen F.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vesta, a long time member here, is an authority on CPSIA with a particular emphasis on baby carriers. Maybe she'd be a resource for you if you get stuck. I know she provides consulting services.
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Diana Pham
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you so much, Kathleen. I will look Vesta up!
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Esther
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are additional regulations coming down the line for baby carriers and only a minor part of it directly related to fabric. I wrote about it on my blog a while ago. Since then, there has been another reg come down but I haven't had time to look at it.

http://designloft.blogspot.com/2014/04/new-rules-for-soft-infant-and-toddler.html
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Diana Pham
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 2:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes I think f2236 has been mandatory for a while now. I think it's ridiculous that something that is a law (or at least has the full force of the law) is not in the public domain.
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