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The Cadmium Debate Continues

Cadmium is a soft bluish metal.

What is cadmium? Cadmium is a rare metallic element found in small deposits on almost every continent. It has a number of uses and it can be expensive due to its rarity. Cadmium is also toxic and should be handled with care. So how does it play part in the jewelry industry? Cadmium is often used in children’s jewelry. Health concerns have been raised and states continue to decide on appropriate guidelines:

The U.S jewelry industry wants states to overturn laws that limit the toxic metal cadmium in children’s trinkets and adopt new voluntary guidelines it helped create, saying stricter rules in several states create chaos for manufacturers and importers.

Persuading legislators to reopen the issue won’t be an easy sell: Many consumer and environmental advocates say the new guidelines weaken protection of children’s health.

While the voluntary rules have the support of federal regulators, states that passed much stricter limits over the past year would have to backtrack and allow higher levels of a metal that can cause cancer.

That didn’t sound likely Monday.

“Maryland ought to set whatever standard we feel is correct,” said Delegate James Hubbard, a Democrat who successfully sponsored the nation’s toughest cadmium-in-jewelry limits this spring. “We made a judgment call based on what we felt was in the best interest of the people we represent.”

A jewelry industry that has been hammered by more than a year of recalls and legal setbacks does have some momentum, now that the rules it drafted were passed last week by the respected organization ASTM International, which sets voluntary rules for a range of goods. Industry’s goal is to replace the current patchwork of regulation with a unified standard.

“Our whole mission in this is to have standards that are not floating in quicksand,” said Brent Cleaveland, head of the ASTM subcommittee that wrote the rules and executive director of the Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association. He described the limits he oversaw as “way more conservative than necessary” to protect kids’ health.

Cleaveland says his next move is to press legislatures in states that have set limits to reopen the issue and adopt the voluntary standards. If that succeeds, Cleaveland would then ask Congress to pass legislation to make the voluntary standard national law.

If the industry lobbying effort fails, state limits that are much tougher than the voluntary rules will effectively remain the national standard. That’s because manufacturers that sell in places like California and Maryland would need to comply with limits there, and wouldn’t create different products for the rest of the country.

Mandatory limits adopted over the past year already deter use of the heavy metal, which over time can also cause bone and kidney diseases, though there have been no documented deaths or serious injuries.

Read more at Business Weekly.