January 11, 2010 – Pure cadmium is a soft, silver-white metal found naturally in small quantities in air, water and soil. It does not have a definite taste or odor. Cadmium is not mined, but it is a byproduct of the smelting of other metals such as zinc, lead and copper.
It is best know for its use in rechargeable batteries. But lab testing organized by The Associated Press shows that it also is present in children’s jewelry – sometimes, astonishingly, at levels exceeding 90 percent of the item’s total weight.
The most contaminated piece analyzed in lab testing contained a startling 91 percent cadmium by weight. The cadmium content of other contaminated trinkets tested at 89 percent, 86 percent and 84 percent by weight. The testing also showed that some items easily shed the heavy metal.
Cadmium is a known carcinogen. Like lead, it can hinder brain development in the very young, according to recent research.
Children don’t have to swallow an item to be exposed — they can get persistent, low-level doses by regularly sucking or biting jewelry with a high cadmium content.
Some of the most troubling test results were for bracelet charms sold at Walmart, at the jewelry chain Claire’s and at a dollar store. High amounts of cadmium also were detected in “The Princess and The Frog” movie-themed pendants.
“There’s nothing positive that you can say about this metal. It’s a poison,” said Bruce A. Fowler, a cadmium specialist and toxicologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On the CDC’s priority list of 275 most hazardous substances in the environment, cadmium ranks No. 7.
Jewelry industry veterans in China say cadmium has been used in domestic products there for years. Zinc, the metal most cited as a replacement for lead in imported jewelry being sold in the United States, is a much safer and nontoxic alternative. But the jewelry tests conducted for AP, along with test findings showing a growing presence of cadmium in other children’s products, demonstrate that the safety threat from cadmium is being exported.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has never recalled an item for cadmium — even though it has received scattered complaints based on private test results for at least the past two years.
“It comes down to the following: Cadmium causes cancer. How much cadmium do you want your child eating?” said Michael R. Harbut, a doctor who has treated adult victims of cadmium poisoning and is director of the environmental cancer program at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit. “In my view, the answer should be none.”Posted in: Recent News
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