Cadmium is a known carcinogen. Like lead, it can hinder brain development in the very young, according to recent research. Unfortunately, now that lead is heavily regulated under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, Chinese manufacturers have turned to cadmium for the manufacture of children's jewelry.
A recent investigation by the Associated Press of children's jewelry items sold at national and regional chains or franchises (e.g. Walmart, Dollar Store) showed that 12 percent of the items tested contained at least 10 percent cadmium by weight, while certain items registered cadmium content as high as 91 percent to 84 percent by weight. Among popular items, high amounts of cadmium were detected in "The Princess and The Frog" movie-themed pendants.
The testing also showed that some items easily shed the heavy metal. This raises serious concerns since it means 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.
Unfortunately, there are no cadmium content restrictions for jewelry. What cadmium regulations exist for consumer products apply only to painted toys.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has never recalled an item due to high cadmium content.
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