A spokesman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission told The Associated Press its inspectors at 10 of the nation's largest ports are now screening children's jewelry typically imported from China for cadmium.
"Our surveillance and detection program has now been expanded" through the use of special guns that shoot X-rays into jewelry to estimate how much cadmium each item might contain, spokesman Scott Wolfson said.
Word of increased scrutiny came as the agency announced the voluntary recall of about 19,000 "Best Friends" charm bracelet sets made in China and sold exclusively at the jewelry and accessories store Claire's, which has more than 3,000 stores in North America and Europe.
Agency scientists confirmed independent test results that were reported by AP in January, which showed high levels of cadmium in the "Best Friends" bracelet.
The recall pertains only to such items previously sold at Claire's; several days after AP's initial investigation became public, the chain said it would immediately stop selling the item.
While the CPSC does not release its results, testing done for the AP revealed that bracelets sold at Claire's contained up to 91 percent cadmium by weight, and shed alarming amounts during a test that examined how much cadmium children might be exposed to if they accidentally swallow the charms.
"Cadmium is toxic if ingested by children and can cause adverse health effects," the agency said in its recall announcement. Medical research shows that cadmium in high levels is a known carcinogen and can harm kidneys and bones.
Consumers should take away from children the bracelets, which were sold for about $12, and return them to Claire's for a replacement or refund, according to the announcement.
The CPSC identified the manufacturer as Dae Yeon Industries Corp., of China.
As part of its announcement in January that it was pulling the item from store shelves, the chain released a statement saying the items were safe, but that the decision was made "out of an abundance of caution." On Monday, Claire's did not immediately respond to a request for comment, including why it had waited four months to agree to a recall for the "Best Friends" bracelets it had sold in the year before the AP story.
Monday's recall was the third prompted by AP's investigation. Before this year, no consumer product in the United States had been recalled because of cadmium.
Representatives of jewelry importers and manufacturers have rejected the idea that children's metal jewelry is unsafe. Michael Gale, the executive director of the Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association, has told several state legislatures that are considering strict limits on cadmium in jewelry that if those laws pass, it might be impossible to put any lower-priced children's jewelry on stores shelves where those laws apply.