From The New York Times
Barred from using lead in children's jewelry because of its toxicity, some Chinese manufacturers have been substituting the more dangerous heavy metal cadmium
in sparkling charm bracelets and shiny pendants being sold throughout the United States, an Associated Press investigation shows.
The most contaminated piece analyzed in lab testing performed for the AP contained a startling 91 percent cadmium by weight. The cadmium content of other contaminated trinkets, all purchased at national and regional chains or franchises, tested at 89 percent, 86 percent and 84 percent by weight. The testing also showed that some items easily shed the heavy metal, raising additional concerns about the levels of exposure to children.
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.
To gauge cadmium's prevalence in children's jewelry, the AP organized lab testing of 103 items bought in New York, Ohio, Texas and California. All but one were purchased in November or December.
The results: 12 percent of the pieces of jewelry contained at least 10 percent cadmium.
''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.
There is no definitive explanation for why children's jewelry manufacturers, virtually all from China in the items tested, are turning to cadmium. But a reasonable double whammy looms: With lead heavily regulated under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, factories scrambled for substitutes, just as cadmium prices plummeted.
To determine how much cadmium a child could be exposed to, items are bathed in a solution that mimics stomach acid to see how much of the toxin would leach out after being swallowed.
The jewelry testing for AP was conducted by chemistry professor Jeff Weidenhamer of Ashland University in Ohio, who over the past few years has provided the CPSC with results showing high lead content in products that were later recalled. His lab work for AP assessed how much cadmium was in each item. Overall, 12 of the 103 items each contained at least 10 percent cadmium. Two others contained lower amounts, while the other 89 were clean.
Ten of the items with the highest cadmium content were then run through the stomach acid test to see how much would escape. Although that test is used only in regulation of toys, AP used it to see what hazard an item could pose because unlike the regulations, a child's body doesn't distinguish between cadmium leached from jewelry and cadmium leached from a toy.
An official at FAF's headquarters did not respond to multiple requests for comment when informed of Weidenhamer's results; a woman at the company's office in southern China who would not give her name said FAF products ''might naturally contain some very small amounts of cadmium. We measure it in parts per million because the content is so small, for instance one part per million.'' However, the tests conducted for AP showed the pendants contained between 246,000 and 346,000 parts per million of cadmium.
''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.''