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Cadmium Found in Kids' Jewelry from China

Jan 12, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

Parents have a new worry when it comes to toxic toys from China.  A recent Associated Press investigation has found that much of the children's jewelry imported from that country is made with toxic cadmium.

Cadmium is a known carcinogen, and can interfere with brain development in very young children. On the Centers for Disease Control’s priority list of 275 most hazardous substances in the environment, cadmium ranks No. 7. Kids can ingest the cadmium in jewelry by sucking or biting it.

In spite of its high toxicity, there are no restrictions on cadmium content on jewelry, and the sale of these products is perfectly legal. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 set the first explicit regulation of jewelry, but that only applies to painted toys. And despite periodic complaints about the toxin over the past couple of years, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has never issued a recall because of cadmium.

According to the Associated Press, Chinese manufacturers likely switched to using cadmium in the jewelry because they are barred from using lead.

All of the jewelry used in the Associated Press investigation were purchased at national and regional retail chains or franchises in New York, Ohio, Texas and California, mostly in November and December.  The most contaminated piece analyzed contained a whopping 91 percent cadmium by weight. Other pieces of jewelry tested at 89 percent, 86 percent and 84 percent by weight. Overall, 12 percent of 103 pieces of jewelry contained at least 10 percent cadmium.

Some of the pieces with the highest cadmium content included bracelet charms sold at Wal-Mart, at the jewelry chain Claire’s and at dollar stores, as well as “The Princess and the Frog” pendants. Other findings included the fact that the toxic cadmium shed easily from some pieces, increasing the danger to children.

According to the Associated Press, the CPSC said it would be opening an investigation into the matter immediately. Inez Tenenbaum, head of the agency, also addressed the controversy in taped remarks slated to be delivered Tuesday in Hong Kong, and urged other countries to ensure that manufacturers do not substitute cadmium, antimony or barium in place of lead in children’s products. The Associated Press reported that Tenenbaum singled out cadmium, buts stressed that voluntary efforts to restrict its use might not be enough.

A day after the Associated Press published its report on cadmium tainted jewelry, a Wal-Mart spokesperson said the findings were “troubling”, and the retailer began pulling the items cited in the Associated Press report.

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