An investigation by the Associated Press has revealed some disturbing news concerning children’s jewelry. Barred from using lead in children’s jewelry because of its toxicity, some Chinese manufacturers have been substituting cadmium, which is a much more dangerous heavy metal, in sparkling charm bracelets and shiny pendants being sold throughout the United States. The most contaminated piece analyzed in lab testing performed for the Associated Press contained a startling 91% cadmium by weight. The cadmium content of other contaminated trinkets, all purchased at national and regional chains or franchises, tested at 89%, 86% and 84% by weight. The testing also showed that some items easily shed the heavy metal, raising additional concerns about the levels of exposure to children.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates children’s products, is opening an investigation and says it “will take action as quickly as possible to protect the safety of children.” Cadmium is a known carcinogen and like lead, it can hinder brain development in the very young, according to recent research. Children don’t have to swallow an item to be exposed — they can get persistent, low-level doses by regularly sucking or biting jewelry with a high cadmium content.
A patchwork of federal consumer protection regulations does nothing to keep these nuggets of cadmium from U.S. store shelves. Since there are no cadmium restrictions on jewelry, such items are sold legally. The CPSC has never recalled an item for cadmium. Since lead is now heavily regulated under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, jewelry factories looked for substitutes. When cadmium prices fell sharply it was readily available.
The Act set a new, stringent standard for lead in children’s products: only the very smallest amount is permissible — no more than 0.03% of the total content. The statute has led manufacturers to drastically reduce lead in toys and jewelry. The law also contained the first explicit regulation of cadmium, though the standards are significantly less strict than lead and apply only to painted toys, not jewelry.
The chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, who is the country’s top product safety regulator, has warned parents and caretakers to take cheap metal jewelry away from children out of concern they could be exposed to toxic heavy metals such as lead and cadmium.
Sources: Tuscaloosa News, Associated Press, and USA Today
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