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Toxic Cadmium in Kid's Jewelry Gets Lawmakers' Attention

Jan 20, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

Two New York lawmakers are acting on reports that Chinese-made children’s jewelry is often made with cadmium.  U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat, wants the toxic metal defined as a banned hazardous substance. Meanwhile, New York State Senator James S. Alesi, R-Perinton, introduced a new bill last week in Albany to ban the use of cadmium in jewelry marketed to young children.

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.

Schumer announced his legislation to ban cadmium last week at a press conference in front of the Dollar N More store on Mt. Hope Avenue in Rochester. “There’s nothing more important than the safety of our children,” Schumer said. “This toxic metal poses a direct threat to their safety and well being. I will fight tooth and nail to ensure this proposal becomes law as quickly as possible.”

Schumer said he hopes to get the legislation on the Senate calendar next month.

Alesi’s bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Health Committee on Jan. 12. The legislation to ban cadmium is the latest in a series of measures that Alesi has introduced that focus on children’s health and safety. He has also introduced bills that would: ban lead in children’s jewelry; ban mercury in schools; ban dangerous cleaning products in schools; ban chromated copper arsenate (CCA) in pressure-treated lumber, once commonly used in wood playgrounds; and ban the use of bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby bottles and water bottles.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has also opened an investigation into cadmium in children's jewelry.  Last week, CPSC head Inez Tenenbaum advised parents in a blog post to take Chinese made jewelry away from their kids. 

Tenenbaum's warning, as well as the legislation put forth by Schumer and Alesi, came after the Associated Press reported that children’s jewelry from China was made with cadmium. 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.

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