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CPSC Head Voices Concerns Over Toxic Jewelry From China

Jan 15, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

The head of the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a warning to parents and caregivers yesterday:  Throw away any cheap, Chinese-made jewelry your children have. 

“I have a message for parents, grandparents and caregivers: Do not allow young children to be given or to play with cheap metal jewelry, especially when they are unsupervised,” Tenenbaum wrote in a blog on Thursday. Tenenbaum cited an Associated Press investigation that found Chinese-made children's jewelry contained cadmium, a toxic metal.

Chinese manufacturers likely switched to using cadmium in the jewelry because they are barred from using lead, the Associated Press said. But cadmium is every bit as dangerous. 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.

According to the Associated Press, the most contaminated piece analyzed for its investigation 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.

Unfortunately, the CPSC has no restrictions on using cadmium in children’s jewelry. 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 CPSC has never issued a recall because of cadmium.

The CPSC has launched an investigation since the publication of the Associated Press report.

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