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Canada Adopts More Stringent Heavy Metal Limits for Children’s Products

The Canadian government has issued two regulations that will require children’s jewellery and certain other children’s products to comply with significantly more stringent requirements for toxic heavy metals. Specifically, Health Canada has (i) further reduced the current limit on lead in children’s jewellery and set a strict limit for cadmium in children’s jewellery items small enough to be swallowed, and (ii) broadened the strict limits for lead in consumer products that children are likely to be in contact with to include a range of additional items. The new requirements will apply from 2 November.

Children’s Jewellery
Health Canada is (i) adding a 130 milligram per kilogram (mg/kg) total cadmium limit for children’s jewellery items small enough to be swallowed by a child (i.e., small enough to be totally enclosed in a small parts cylinder when a force of not more than 4.45 N is applied) and (ii) replacing the current 600 mg/kg total lead limit and the 90 mg/kg migratable lead limit with a single 90 mg/kg total lead limit for all children’s jewellery items. The term children’s jewellery is defined as jewellery manufactured, sized, decorated, packaged, advertised or sold in a manner that appeals primarily to children under 15 years of age. Excluded from the scope of this definition are merit badges, medals for achievement, and other similar objects normally worn only occasionally.

Health Canada notes that, despite its October 2010 challenge to industry to voluntarily discontinue the use of cadmium in children’s jewellery, follow-up surveys have shown that the request for voluntary action has been ineffective in removing children’s jewellery with dangerous levels of cadmium from the Canadian marketplace. The agency believes that since almost all the manufacturers and suppliers of children’s jewellery are based in other countries, mainly in Asia, it would be difficult to obtain commitment or effective enforcement from industry for a voluntary Canadian standard.

According to Health Canada, the new cadmium and lead limits for children’s jewellery are being adopted for the following reasons.

  • The limit of 130 mg/kg total cadmium includes a margin of safety and provides the greatest level of protection for children.
  • Specific regulatory requirements for cadmium in children’s jewellery will provide certainty and predictability to industry and facilitate compliance and enforcement action when required. They will allow Health Canada to take immediate compliance and enforcement action without having to demonstrate on a case­by­case basis that a specific product poses a danger to human health and safety.
  • The cadmium requirements focus on items small enough to be swallowed because the main cadmium exposure risk is from swallowed items. Because cadmium tastes very bitter, children are not likely to suck or chew on items made with cadmium.
  • Introduction of a specific regulatory cadmium limit for children’s jewellery is consistent with the way risks from lead in children’s jewellery are currently managed.
  • Replacement of the 600 mg/kg total lead limit and the 90 mg/kg migratable lead limit with a 90 mg/kg total lead limit aligns lead limits for children’s jewellery with limits currently in effect or proposed under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act for other products posing a similar lead exposure risk.
  • Since total cadmium and lead tests are less costly than migratable tests, introduction of total lead and cadmium limits will minimise industry costs to test children’s jewellery.

Certain Children’s Products
Each accessible part of the following children’s products will be subject to a new maximum total lead limit of 90 mg/kg: (i) products that are brought into contact with the user’s mouth during normal use, except for kitchen utensils or products subject to the Glazed Ceramics and Glassware Regulations; (ii) clothing and clothing accessories intended for use by a child under 14 years of age; (iii) products intended for use in learning or play by a child under 14 years of age; (iv) books or similar printed products intended for a child under 14 years of age, except if the product is printed on paper or cardboard and printed and bound in a conventional manner using conventional materials; and (v) products whose primary purpose is to facilitate relaxation, sleep, hygiene, carrying or transportation of a child under four years of age.

Accessible parts of these products may exceed the prescribed lead limit if (i) lead is necessary to produce an essential characteristic of the part; (ii) no alternative part containing less lead is available; and (iii) the part, when tested in accordance with good laboratory practices, does not release more than 90 mg/kg of lead. 

Health Canada notes that the limit will apply to total rather than migratable lead because a total lead limit is considered a more reliable measure of maximum exposure risks. Unlike total lead content, migratable lead content is not a fixed value as factors such as duration of exposure, temperature, composition and condition of the item may greatly influence migration rates. Moreover, since total lead tests are less costly than migratable lead tests, industry costs to test affected products will be lower.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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