Wal-Mart Cracks Down on Cadmium

Wal-Mart announced last month that it has begun testing many of the children’s products it sells for cadmium. According to the company’s April 26, 2010 announcement, “all toys, child care articles, children’s costume jewelry and children’s jewelry craft making kits” will be tested for cadmium and must meet Wal-Mart’s requirements. The company’s requirements apply to products manufactured as of April 9, 2010.

Background. Wal-Mart’s decision to limit and test for cadmium stems in part from a media investigative report earlier this year of high levels of cadmium in children’s jewelry sold by U.S. retailers, including Wal-Mart (read more in Nena Street’s post from February 22nd). In recent months, the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a series of recalls involving products containing cadmium, and lawmakers at the state and federal levels have proposed adopting stringent limits on cadmium in children’s products. While not known to be dangerous if simply worn, the concern with children’s items containing cadmium is exposure from biting or sucking on items containing cadmium.

Wal-Mart’s Announcements. On March 5, 2010 Wal-Mart issued a Product Safety and Regulatory Noticeto its suppliers of children’s products, informing them of the company’s decision to adopt standards and testing methods for certain heaving metals, including cadmium, in toys, child care articles, children’s costume jewelry, and children’s jewelry-making craft kits. The standards the company has adopted are based on EN 71-3 (British Standard Safety of Toys – Part 3: Migration of certain elements). Under Wal-Mart’s standards, the cadmium soluble limit for substrate components and for surface coatings is 75 parts per million (ppm).

Wal-Mart issued a statement on its new cadmium testing standards on April 26, 2010. In its announcement, the company stated that all covered products “tested on or after April 9, 2010 must meet these new Walmart requirements.” Most recently, Wal-Mart announced on May 19, 2010 that it has pulled a line of necklaces and bracelets that were found in February of this year to contain high levels of cadmium. Though the company had previously announced that it would not go back and test products already in its stores prior to April 9th (the date its new testing standards went into effect), according to its statement last week Wal-Mart has apparently done just that and removed from its shelves “the few products that did not” meet Wal-Mart’s new standards.

Update from the Legislative Front. Wal-Mart’s decision to voluntarily adopt standards for cadmium comes against a backdrop of new and pending state laws regulating cadmium levels in certain children’s products. Below is a list of some of the states that have enacted or are close to enacting cadmium legislation:

• Minnesota S.F. 2510 (signed into law May 15, 2010) – section 27 of this bill adds Minn. Stat. 325E.3891, which establishes a limit of 75 ppm of cadmium in children’s jewelry.

• Illinois H.B. 5040 (passed both houses May 3, 2010) – would enact the Cadmium-Safe Kids Act, which would impose a limit for cadmium of 75 ppm in children’s jewelry.

• California S.B. 929 (passed Senate April 26, 2010) – would amend the Heavy Metal-Containing Jewelry Article of the Health and Safety Code to prohibit the sale of children’s jewelry that contains cadmium in excess of 75 ppm.

Additionally, the Safe Kids Jewelry Act (S. 2975) remains pending in the U.S. Senate. This federal legislation would prohibit the manufacture, sale, or distribution of children’s jewelry containing certain heavy metals, including cadmium. Until Congress enacts such federal legislation, expect the States, CPSC, and the private sector to continue to lead the charge to address cadmium in children’s products.

Scott Peterkin is an Associate in the Regulatory Affairs Department at Dorsey & Whitney, LLP. Please see our web site at www.dorsey.com.

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