Federal regulators have for the first time revealed how they intend to police the problem presented by the toxic metal cadmium in children's jewelry. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which has been scrambling to deal with risks posed by cadmium since high levels were found in some children's jewelry, said this week that they will not insist on mandatory limits for heavy metal. Instead, the agency will defer to an independent, private-sector group that has been drafting voluntary limits for several months.

This is a shift from the aggressive approach that the CPSC took earlier this year with recall after recall of children's jewelry. The agency's chairman, Inez Tenenbaum, went so far as to advise parents to get rid of all cheap metal trinkets.

But rather than pursue a mandatory limit for cadmium, the CPSC has decided to allow the industry to self-police via voluntary standards. They will defer to the standard-setting group ASTM International, which several months ago convened representatives of the jewelry industry, consumer advocates and the agency to write new guidelines for cadmium in jewelry.

The CPSC sits on the independent committee, but it doesn't have a vote. The advantage to this approach, according to the CPSC, is that it's faster than the steps required to set mandatory limits. The bottom line is that if the CPSC isn't happy with the voluntary standards or the industry's ability to police itself, it can pursue mandatory standards.  

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