MAC: Mines and Communities

Chinese jeweller allegedly "swaps" one toxic metal for another

Published by MAC on 2010-01-25
Source: CBS, China Daily (2010-01-12)

Some Chinese manufacturers appear to be reducing their dependence on lead in jewellery and toys. However, one firm is allegedly now substituting it for an even more toxic metal - cadmium.

Toxic Cadmium Swapped for Lead in Jewelry

CBS/AP

12 January 2010

Claire's Chain Latest to Pull Kids' Bracelet After Probe Reveals High Levels of Carcinogen which May Hamper I.Q.

LOS ANGELES - An international chain store says it will no longer sell a charm bracelet that lab testing reported by The Associated Press showed was laden with toxic cadmium.

In a statement, Claire's says it has no reason to believe that the product is unsafe, but is removing it "out of an abundance of caution."

Charms on the "Best Friends" bracelet contained 89 and 91 percent cadmium, according to testing organized by AP, and shed alarming amounts in a procedure that looks at how much cadmium children might be exposed to.

Claire's has nearly 3,000 stores in North America and Europe.

On the CBS "Early Show" Tuesday, consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen noted that Wal-mart, the nation's largest retailer, was taking some products containing cadmium off its shelves.

Manufacturers have been barred from using lead in children's products, such as toys and jewelry. And a new Associated Press investigation shows cadmium, an inexpensive, dangerous metal known to cause cancer, is being substituted for it.

Dr. Philip Landrigan, of the Department of Preventative Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, told CBS News, "It's a nasty toxic metal and, in my opinion, has no place in children's toys -- none."

The Associated Press bought more than 100 pieces of children's jewelry made in China and sold at Wal-mart and other retailers around the country. Twelve percent of the trinkets contained at least 10 percent cadmium, but Disney's "Princess and the Frog" pendants came in between 25 percent to 35 percent cadmium. In a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer charm, the level was 91 percent.

Dr. Jeffrey Weidenhamer, professor of chemistry at Ashland University, in Ashland, Ohio, called it "appalling" to find cadmium at those levels in products designed for children.

He added, "There's recent research indicating that it can cause learning disabilities and permanent loss of I.Q."

Liz Hitchcock, a consumer advocate with U.S. PIRG, a consumer advocacy group, says, "It's outrageous that an industry that's been told that it can no longer use a toxic chemical like lead in products turns to another toxic chemical, cadmium, a known carcinogen, to use in the same products."

As part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, cadmium in paint is banned from children's toys, but the law doesn't address cadmium in jewelry, which is how these trinkets are reaching the market.

The CPSC issued a statement, saying the agency is now moving swiftly to prevent foreign manufacturers of children's jewelry from substituting high levels of cadmium and other heavy metals in place of lead. The CPSC, Koeppen observes, is also investigating the jewelry cited.

Hitchcock said, "American manufacturers, whether they make their product in Bayonne (N.J.) or Beijing, have a responsibility to keep toxic substances out of the hands of our children."

Koeppen added on "The Early Show" that Disney says it requires all its products to be tested and, says the "Princess and the Frog" necklaces were shown to be in compliance with all current safety standards.

Koeppen says the CPSC has suggested in the past that parents not purchase any metal jewelry for their kids.


Probe into US claims of toxic children's jewelry

By Wang Yan and Zhu Zhe, China Daily

14 January 2010

Officials from the country's top quality watchdog yesterday said the agency would look into the alleged toxic Chinese-made children's jewelry reported in the United States, adding that more information is necessary.

The US-based Associated Press reported on Monday that test results on some made-in-China children's jewelry found high levels of the heavy metal cadmium in the products. Cadmium, which is used in batteries, carries a threat to the health of consumers.

Officials from US retail giant Wal-Mart said the jewelry would be pulled from its shelves, and Claire's, a jewelry retailer, followed suit on Tuesday, according to US media reports.

"We've heard about it and are looking for more information," an official in charge of toy safety with the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), surnamed Song, said over the phone yesterday.

"And we need to find out whether the accused products came out of China through legal means," he said.

Wang Xin, director of AQSIQ's department of supervision on inspection, who was in Hong Kong to attend a toy safety conference, also told AP: "We just heard about this, and we will investigate."

A staffer surnamed Zhang at the China Toy Association said the association received calls from several media organizations asking for a response on the issue.

"But without solid facts and detailed information, we are unable to comment," she said.

However, primary interviews indicate neither China nor the US have specific regulations on cadmium limits in consumer goods.

Song said such children's jewelry is so far not on China's statutory inspection catalogue, which means tests on these products are not mandatory at borders.

The US-based Seattle Times also reported that the US federal government has never recalled any item for its cadmium content.

"If the cadmium-laden jewelry were industrial garbage, it could qualify as hazardous waste. But since there are no cadmium restrictions on jewelry, such items are sold legally," the report said.

The jewelry testing was conducted for the AP, in which 103 pieces of cheap children's jewelry were tested. Among them, 12 had more than 10 percent of cadmium in total weight, and two had less than 10 percent. A total of 89 pieces were free from cadmium.

AP said cadmium is poisonous to humans. It may hinder brain development in young children. In the worst-case scenarios, it might lead to cancer, kidneys that leak vital protein and bones that spontaneously snap.

The report also said the tests were conducted by chemistry professor Jeff Weidenhamer of Ashland University in Ohio, who previously provided the US government with results of products containing high lead that were later recalled.

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