Cadmium New Fear in Kids' Trinkets

Update: The international chain store Claire's says it will no longer sell a charm bracelet that lab testing reported by The Associated Press showed was laden with toxic cadmium, "citing an abundance of caution."

Scares surrounding lead in child toys remain fresh in consumers' minds. And now, concern is now on the rise over another toxic metal -- cadmium.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has launched an investigation into the jewelry over levels of cadmium in kids' jewelry.

"Early Show" consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen notes that Wal-mart, the nation's largest retailer, is taking some products containing cadmium off its shelves.

Manufacturers have been barred from using lead in children's products, such as toys and jewelry, Koeppen points out. 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 no 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 Ashalnd, 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, an 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.

CPSC Chair Inez Tenenbaum's Message to Parents: Take Cheap Metal Jewelry Away From Young Kids

by Inez Tenenbaum

In March 2006, a tragic incident occurred which had a significant impact on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Jarnell Brown, a 4-year old boy from Minneapolis, Minn., swallowed a metal charm that was nearly pure lead. He sadly died four days later. Since 2004, our agency has conducted more than 50 recalls of more than 180 million units of metal jewelry because it contained a hazardous amount of lead. Since August 2009, it has been illegal to produce a piece of children's metal jewelry with more than 300 parts per million of lead.

Now we hear about cadmium in jewelry. This is unacceptable. Just this week, I sent a clear message warning manufacturers against the use of heavy metals, "especially cadmium," in a keynote speech that was delivered Tuesday at the APEC Toy Safety Initiative/Dialogue in Hong Kong.

Because of these recent developments, I have a message for parents, grandparents and caregivers: Do not allow young children to be given or to play with cheap metal jewelry, especially when they are unsupervised.

We have proof that lead in children's jewelry is dangerous and was pervasive in the marketplace. To prevent young children from possibly being exposed to lead, cadmium or any other hazardous heavy metal, take the jewelry away.

We are moving swiftly to stop the replacement of lead with cadmium and other hazardous heavy metals in children's products imported from China. We are also actively investigating the jewelry cited in the recent AP story and will inform parents and consumers quickly of any actions we take as a result of our efforts. Our investigation is squarely focused on ensuring the safety of children.

It is very difficult for a parent to determine if an item contains harmful levels of a metal in a specific item except by checking recalls listed on the CPSC Web site. Parents should know that swallowing, sucking on or chewing a metal charm or necklace could result in exposure to lead, cadmium or other heavy metals, which are known to be toxic at certain levels of exposure.

We are working to take decisive action at CPSC, using the Federal Hazardous Substance Act, a law aimed at keeping kids safe from toxic chemicals and metals.

The key message that I want parents to know is: We will act to protect young children, but take the metal jewelry away from children who will swallow, suck or chew on it while our work continues.