It has been reported that children can be exposed to as much as 100 times the recommended limit of cadmium when they mouth or accidentally swallow inexpensive jewelry. Canadian and U.S. product safety authorities are now investigating the presence of cadmium in children’s jewelry imported from China. This came about due to an Associated Press investigation in January. AP found that some Chinese manufacturers have been substituting cadmium for lead in cheap charm bracelets and pendants being sold throughout the United States and possibly Canada.
As we have previously reported, cadmium, a heavy metal, can cause kidney, bone, lung, and liver disease. Due to the fact that cadmium can accumulate in the body, all exposures should be avoided. Researchers tested 92 pieces of cadmium-containing jewelry, and found a football pendant and a heart charm, for example, would expose children to 100 times the recommended limit on cadmium had they been swallowed. The study found that these results “indicate the potential for dangerous cadmium exposures to children who wear, mouth, or accidentally swallow high-cadmium jewelry items.”
You can get more information from a recent online issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Scientists also did separate tests to mimic normal use by children that could scratch or damage the outer coating on the jewels. In those cases, the risk of exposure grew. For example, six damaged charms in the shape of sandals yielded 30 times as much cadmium as undamaged charms.
The study’s lead author, Jeffrey Weidenhamer, a chemistry professor at Ashland University in Ohio, said he hopes the potential hazards of cadmium-laden jewelry will be taken seriously since the amounts of cadmium were “extraordinarily high and clearly dangerous if these items were mouthed or swallowed by children.”
Cadmium is a particular concern because it accumulates in the body over our lifetime, according to the researchers. The digestive systems of children are also more efficient at absorbing cadmium. It’s impossible for parents to tell which items contain cadmium because it is not identified on the product. The study tested cadmium-laden jewelry, mostly charms and necklace pendants labeled for children and imported mainly from China. Most sold for less than $5 each and were bought in 2009 and 2010. Agencies around the world, including the World Health Organization, are working to regulate the use and disposal of the heavy metal. The study was funded in part by a grant from the Dr. Scholl Foundation.
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