The Consumer Product Safety Directorate of Health Canada monitors the Canadian marketplace to verify industry compliance with the requirements under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA) and its Regulations, as well as the Cosmetic Regulations under the Food and Drugs Act (FDA). Inspectors keep unsafe products out of the marketplace with the cooperation of industry. To achieve this, for example, an inspector may take a sample of merchandise for the purpose of testing and evaluation to see whether it meets Canadian requirements.
Health Canada is informing industry and the public that Health Canada will be using portable X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzers to test consumer products for heavy metals. Health Canada will begin by using the portable XRF analyzers to test for heavy metals in children's products, including children's jewellery.
Handheld XRF analyzers are portable and testing is fast and accurate. In general, a certified XRF operator can use the analyzer to test products in the field without damaging the product. The XRF analyzer works by passing x-rays through a material in order to measure the concentration of heavy metals in it.
All Product Safety Officers using portable XRF analyzers are certified through a recognized training program with Natural Resources Canada. This ensures that they understand the science, abilities, and limitations of the analyzer, as well as requirements for safely using a radiation-emitting device (under the Radiation Emitting Devices Act).
In addition, Health Canada has developed protocols for using these devices to test consumer products safely and reliably.
Health Canada currently tests consumer products at its Product Safety Laboratory to find out if they contain lead and other toxic metals above the allowable limits. Hours or days are needed for this testing. By using the portable XRF analyzers, Health Canada will be able to screen more consumer products in the field and use laboratory resources more efficiently by only testing products that appear to have significant concentration(s) of heavy metal(s).
Exposure to even very low levels of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium can result in harmful effects on the health and development of young children. Regulations limit the amount of several heavy metals that can be found in a variety of consumer products, including those intended for children.
Lead has often been used to make children's jewellery because it is inexpensive and easy to shape. Lead has also been found in the paint on children's products.
The manufacture, import, advertising and sale of consumer products, including children's jewellery or other products intended for children that contain lead, are regulated under the CCPSA.
Health Canada has also expressed concern that cadmium, which is a carcinogen, may be increasingly substituted for lead in inexpensive jewellery. In October 2010, the Minister of Health took action to protect the health and safety of children by appealing to members of industry to voluntarily stop the use of cadmium in children's jewellery. In July 2011, the Minister of Health announced a proposal for a new guideline regarding the amount of cadmium that may be found in children's jewellery. Health Canada is monitoring compliance with the request for voluntary action on cadmium.
Product safety is in everyone's best interest. Portable XRF analyzers are another tool for Health Canada to verify that Canadians have access to compliant consumer products. Health Canada continues to examine consumer products that circulate within Canada as well as those that are imported.