Dangerous levels of cadmium have been found in children’s jewelry imported from China, which have been sold at several retail stores in the U.S. According to a recent report published by the Associated Press, children’s jewelry sold at Wal-Mart, Claire’s and dollar stores, as well as children’s jewelry by Disney have been found to contain cadmium.

Cadmium is a human carcinogen that has been linked to cancer, kidney disease, liver disease, and bone damage. Recent research indicates that exposure to cadmium can cause learning disabilities, permanent loss of I.Q., and can hinder brain development in young children. Studies have also shown evidence for birth defects and reproductive damage, especially in men.

Children are exposed to the cadmium by biting, chewing, sucking or accidental ingestion of jewelry containing cadmium. It is unknown how much cadmium exposure is fatal, however a child’s body absorbs substances because it is growing, and cadmium accumulates in the kidneys for years. According to Dr. Robert O. Wright, Harvard University Professor, children’s development can be altered with minimal amounts of chemicals.

The AP reports that the only child death attributed to exposure to cadmium is a boy almost age 3 from Toronto. A case study published in 1994, reported that the autopsy showed his brain had swollen. It was determined that the cadmium exposure was from various items in his home.

Cadmium has been found in the following children’s jewelry pieces:

  • Princess and the Frog bracelet sold at Wal-Mart;
  • Three flip-flop bracelet charms sold at Wal-Mart in 2008;
  • Two charms on a "Best Friends" bracelet sold at Claire's; and
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer charm bracelet sold at Dollar N More stores.

In 2008 Congress banned lead-laden toys, this new law included the first regulation of cadmium, however the standards for use of cadmium is less strict than lead and apply only to painted toys. Because cadmium is only banned in painted toys and is an inexpensive substitute for lead in many products, toy manufacturers have substituted cadmium for lead. For at least the past two years the Consumer Product Safety Commission has received complaints based on private testing of products containing cadmium, despite the complaints the CPSC has never recalled an item containing cadmium. The Associated Press reports that exposure to cadmium is more dangerous than lead exposure.

According to the CPSC "Parents should ‘safely dispose’ of the jewelry following state and local environmental laws, and not resell it through online auctions or to a thrift store." A warning of this level was not issued a few years ago when the CPSC recalled millions of items containing high levels of lead. The CPSC has launched a formal investigation in addition to warning Chinese manufacturers substituting cadmium for lead.

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.