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

The Canadian government has issued two proposals that would set significantly more stringent requirements for toxic heavy metals in children’s jewellery and certain other children’s products. Specifically, Health Canada is proposing to (i) further reduce 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) broaden the strict limits for lead in consumer products that children are likely to be in contact with to include a range of additional items. Interested parties may submit input on these proposals no later than 15 February 2017. If adopted as currently proposed, the new requirements would enter into force six months from the date of publication of a final regulation in the Canada Gazette.

Children’s Jewellery
Health Canada is proposing to (i) add 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) replace 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 proposed for the following reasons.

  • The proposed limit of 130 mg/kg total cadmium includes a margin of safety that helps to provide protection for children.
  • Specific regulatory requirements for cadmium in children’s jewellery would provide certainty and predictability to industry and facilitate compliance and enforcement action when required. They would 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 proposed 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 would align 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 would reduce industry costs for testing children’s jewellery.

Certain Children’s Products
The following children’s products would be subject to a new maximum total led limit of 90 mg/kg: (i) toys for children three to 14 years old; (ii) clothing and accessories for children under 14 years of age; and (iii) products whose primary purpose is to facilitate the relaxation, sleep, hygiene, carrying or transportation of a child less than four years of age. Health Canada notes that the proposed limit would 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 and condition of the item may greatly influence migration rates.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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