Ceramic Industry

CERAMIC DECORATING: Cadmium Regulation Takes Center Stage

October 1, 2010
Industry officials are discussing the safety hazards that may be associated with using cadmium in ceramic enamels.

n July 19, Myra Warne, executive director of the Society of Glass and Ceramic Decorated Products (SGCDpro), met with Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) officials to discuss the use of cadmium in ceramic enamels. Joining Warne at the discussion were SGCDpro lobbyist Walt Sanders; retired U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientist Richard Jacobs, Ph.D.; and industry expert Wayne Zitkus, who is now retired from Libbey, Inc.

Zitkus explained the glass decoration process and brought examples of hot and cold colors. He also detailed the need for cadmium in enamels and why ceramic enamels are sometimes preferable to organics, which do not have the mechanical durability required in some environments (such as food service).

Jacobs discussed the industry's long history of working with the FDA and noted that no safety problems have arisen with ware decorated by U.S. companies. He indicated that most FDA failures related to glass or ceramic items were associated with imports of ware such as terra cotta, which is commonly brought into this country by tourists returning from Mexico.

CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum told the group that recommended cadmium limits were in the peer review stage. A limit for consumer products is expected to be released soon and may not be limited to children's products. In addition, the chairman noted that the CPSC did consider the Shrek glasses, which were voluntarily recalled by McDonald's in June, to be a children's product.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) have since joined the effort to limit or ban cadmium in children's products. The Sierra Club has issued a press release calling for a cadmium ban as well.

Shrek Glasses Tested by SGCDpro

SGCDpro recently had an independent (non-member) lab perform tests on samples of the recalled Shrek glasses. Two different tests were performed. The CPSC wipe test (presumably used by the CPSC) yielded no cadmium release from the glasses. In addition, the more commonly used industry acid leach test-typically referred to as the Massachusetts test-showed the glasses to be safe.

The CPSC has been sent a copy of these results but has offered no comment. It is important to note that SGCDpro test protocol included the appropriate measure of washing the glasses prior to testing to remove any environmental cadmium that may have been introduced during handling, shipping and distribution.

Chemical Safety Under Fire

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee recently took up a bill intended to "protect the environment from risks of chemical exposure." Sen. Frank Lautenburg introduced a similar bill in the Senate. The bill is not expected to see action during the current Congress, but its provisions mirror many of the proposed changes to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) currently under consideration by the EPA.

In other action, the California State Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials and the Health and Natural Resources Committees conducted a joint oversight hearing to develop rules to implement "green chemistry legislation," which was enacted in 2008.

Deco 2011 Program Published

The preliminary program for Deco 2011, to be held March 19-22 in Pittsburgh, Pa., has been published and is available at www.sgcd.org. The program includes an "Ask the Experts" regulatory session; experts from major regulatory areas affecting the industry will be in attendance. SGCDpro industry lobbyist Walt Sanders will also be present to address issues related to the CPSC. Test lab protocol will be discussed, along with any new developments in regulatory issues. The trade show will be held Sunday, March 20, and numerous networking opportunities will be available to attendees.

Sandra Spence serves as legislative liaison for the Society of Glass and Ceramic Decorated Products (SGCDpro). As executive director of the SGCD from 1991 to 2001, she was instrumental in the development of voluntary guidelines still used in the industry today. For additional details, or for information on joining SGCDpro, call (740) 588-9882 or visit www.sgcd.org.

SIDEBAR: SGCDpro Membership Increases by Nearly 20%

SGCDpro membership has seen a sharp increase during 2010. The industry is facing numerous legislative and regulatory issues, and SGCDpro remains the only industry organization that is actively engaging legislative and regulatory bodies. SGCDpro uses experienced industry experts to gather, interpret and report important issues. The society has dedicated substantial financial resources to this effort. For that reason, the legislative portion of the website is available only to society members.

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