Monday, February 2, 2009

What Is In the Products I Make?

Okay, so I have spent a lot of time thinking about why I make stuff...and learning about how to make stuff...but, until the whole CPSIA thing, I did not give much thought to what actually goes into my products.

I have made a choice to use thrift store finds and recycled items when possible. I like the idea of giving back to my community by shopping in places that donate their proceeds to homeless shelters, cancer research and other socially conscious organizations. I like the idea of using natural products over synthetic. And, yet, it never occurred to me to check out the lead or phthalate levels in any of the products I use.

If you haven't read it already, here is a link to the Statement from the Honorable Thomas H. Moore on the Stay of Enforcement of Certain Testing and Certification Requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (dated 1/30/09). It is a very good read.

Statement About the Stay of Enforcement for CPSIA.

Until the stay last week, I spent most of the past two months trying to reconfigure how I can still offer the things I like and meet the requirements of the regulation. I still may want to after I have done some homework.

Now, my head is clearing a little, I decided it is a very good idea to find out as much as I can about the lead and phthalate levels in the products I use...And not solely because the law says I have to (though, admittedly, it is a great motivator). I care about the type of products I bring to the market place.

While I may not be able to track down every manufacturer of every piece of clothing I find at the thrift store (labels are often torn off), I will look at the research that, I hear, shows that fabric--even dyed fabric--has very little (if any) lead content. I am also writing to manufacturers of the products I do use and do know about and will let you know what I find out. This list is not meant to be a substitute for readers' own research into this issue.

I have statements from the following companies (in alphabetical order) about their products:

Cousin Corporation of America (A Touch of Glass Beads) sent me this:

"All of our product is tested in China, and then re-tested here to make certain they are under the min. law requirements. Anything that isn't doesn't go on the market and is cancelled. We are very careful and particular about all of our products." (I have asked for more information, preferably a General Certification for Conformity with the CPSIA or other data to back up this claim).

Mettler Thread (Amann Sewing Threads and Yarns) provided me with an "Agreement on Not Allowed Material (European Directive 2000/53/CE of Sep/2000." In it was the following statement:

"Amann sewing threads and yarns meet all the requirements of German and European law...detailed analysis in our dye house laboratory have shown that, to the best of our knowledge, the metals listed below are not used in the production of our sewing and embroidery threads: Chrome VI, Mercury, Lead or lead applications, Cadmium. For all heavy metals, we guarantee that we under-run the specific limits set in the Oeko Tex 100 standard."

Quilter's Dream LLC sent me this reply (the "information on the web" they sent was a notification of the stay):

"Thank you for using Quilters Dream Batting products. Since all of our products are made from either 100% cotton or other micro fibers we do not believe the new CPSIA is applicable to them. However, I found the following information on the web concerning a delay in the enforcement of the act until the CPSC fully understands what the new requirements actually are and how they should be implemented. I assure you that we will stay on top of the issues related to safety and if for some unforeseen reason cotton and the other micro fibers we use become applicable under the act, we will take appropriate action." (I wrote back to see if I could get MSDS on their products just in case. As far as I know, the original exemption for untreated cotton, wood and other materials was put on hold by the Obama administration. Consequently, the CPSC is still taking public comment on these materials and will make a ruling at some point in the future. I will keep you posted).

The Ribbon Factory has the following statement under "Product Safety" on their website:

"We have contacted our yarn suppliers as yarn is the raw material used in our ribbon and have received material safety data sheets on our yarn and dyes used. All our yarn is manufactured domestically within the United States and does not contain harmful materials and is lead free. The ink used on our polka dot ribbons does not contain harmful material and is free from lead. Our ribbon is free from di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) or benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP)."

Strathmore Artists (artist papers, supplies) provides Certificate of Compliance documentation for each individual product. To access and print the individual Certificate of Compliance documents for HR4040 compliance register at this link:

Synta, Inc. (Anita's All Purpose and Metallic Paints) has a request for Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) form on their website. You will want the product name of each of the items you are interested in. The form says "fax only", but I put NONE in the fax line and provided my phone number, address and email and received a quick response via email with PDFs for the products I was interested in.

The Warm Company has not responded to my emails (yet), but the Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 fusible web I sometimes use in my ornaments, lobsters and ACEOs has this on the back of the package:

"Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 poses no chronic or adverse health effects when used as intended and conforms to LHAMA (Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act) Regulations, ASTM D4236-94 (Standard Practice for Labeling Art Materials for Chronic Health Hazards). Testing is in accordance with guidelines specified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 16 CFR 1500.135.

Wrights (soutache, cording, binding, etc) sent me this statement:

"Because our product is sold as craft items we do not have the information available. I can assure you we are well within the limit of the lead content. We will be posting this on soon..." (I will keep an eye on this and let you know when this information is posted on their website).

I have written to, but have not yet heard from:

DCWV (Cardstock and paper supplies)
Dritz (snaps and other fasteners)
Fairfield (polyfill, batting, pillow forms)
Gutermann (cotton, polyester and metallic threads)
Lion Brand (yarn)
Rexlace/Pepperell Crafts (craftlace and other beading supplies)
The DMC Corporation (embroidery floss)

Final Note:

I feel most comfortable about making decisions to purchase--or not purchase--materials after hearing directly from the manufacturer. However, I have found some interesting links that might make a great start for your own "What Is In the Products I Make?" search:

Consumer Product Safety Act

The Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc. (ACMI)

Health & Safety in the Arts: A Searchable Database of Health & Safety Information for Artists

Household Products Database (National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine Specialized Information Services)

Information Toxicology International, Inc.

As I find out more, I will update this post.


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