Children Remain Unprotected from Cadmium in Jewelry

We have long written that the federal government is concerned about toxic metals. And, while cadmium has shown up in a wide variety of children’s products, specifically jewelry, recalls of cadmium-tainted items are not keeping pace with production.

Now, an Associated Press (AP) investigation reveals that federal regulators have not pushed for recalls after discovering cadmium-tainted jewelry in stores, even though they promised to keep products with the dangerous heavy metal out of children’s products. Also, said The Huffington Post, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) officials have never issued warning to parents about contaminated products likely in their homes. As we’ve written, on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) priority list of 275 most hazardous substances in the environment, cadmium ranks No. 7.

Over two years ago, the AP reported that some Chinese factories had been substituting cadmium for lead, which is banned, yet the CPSC has not been able to figure out the extent of the contamination, said the Huffington Post. And, although the number of cadmium-tainted products making their way into the United States has dropped, jewelry marketed to pre-teen girls has been bought this year. In fact, the AP and representatives from two consumer groups bought tainted jewelry from stores in Los Angeles, suburban San Francisco, central Ohio, and upstate New York.

The Huffington Post described the CPSC as being reactive or inactive when it comes to protecting Americans from dangerous consumer products, citing a so-called “children’s jewelry sweep” the CPSC conducted at stores nationwide. A review revealed that six separate items in stores, including a “baby bracelet,” were considered hazardous according to CPSC guidelines. Despite this, the Commission did not urge for recalls or warn the public about the dangerous items, according to records and interviews, said the Huffington Post.

The CPSC also permitted Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Meijer, to pull jewelry that failed safety testing, but never advised the parents who had purchased the items and never followed up on CPSC’s own evidence that cadmium jewelry continues to be sold, said the Huffington Post.

As we’ve long explained, cadmium has been linked to a number of dangerous health effects. In fact, we recently wrote that researchers found that low-level cadmium exposure is linked to hearing loss. Prior to that, we wrote that cadmium has been linked to breast cancer. Cadmium, considered an even more dangerous toxic metal than lead, is a known carcinogen and can interfere with brain development in very young children and can lead to kidney, bone, lung, and liver disease. And, as the Huffington Post points out, once in the body, cadmium can remain for decades. Should sufficient cadmium accumulate in the body, it can degrade the kidneys and bones, and can cause cancer.

CPSC staff have long agreed with firms that say their high-cadmium items should not be recalled because they did not meet the legal definition of being a “children’s product,” and have also relied on sellers and importers to conduct cadmium policing, without confirming if this was conducted, in at least one year, said the Huffington Post. Jewelry not indicated as “primarily intended” for children 12 and under is considered an adult product; adult products have no cadmium restrictions, the Huffington Post explained. In fact, CPSC field investigators who collected items for sale during the “sweep” were not clear as to what qualified as children’s jewelry under its own guidelines, said the Huffington Post.

In response to the AP’s investigation, the CPSC said it did all it could with its limited resources; however, the Huffington Post noted that, although CPSC Chairman, Inez Tenenbaum, claims credit for reducing the toxic metal in children’s jewelry, efforts seem to have originated elsewhere. For instance Wal-Mart and Target Corp. now mandate safety testing and six states have passed new laws—and national legal settlements have prompted new laws—forcing strict and binding cadmium limits in jewelry, the Huffington Post explained.

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