Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairperson Inez Tenenbaum issued an unprecedented warning in On Safety, the CPSC’s blog – don’t give children cheap metal jewelry. Just don’t. This warning follows the recently released investigation by the Associated Press that found high levels of cadmium in children’s jewelry.
In the blog, Tenenbaum writes:
I have a message for parents, grandparents and caregives: 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 chidlren from possibly being exposed to lead, cadmium or any other hazardous metal, take the jewelry away.
This warning really is unprecedented. Even after Jarnell Brown, a 4 year old boy, died in March 2006 from ingesting a charm that was nearly pure lead, the CPSC didn’t issue such a warning. Since then it has recalled more than 180 million units of metal jewelry because of high levels of lead, but it never issued such a warning. It really highlights that this CPSC is a much different agency under President Obama, as I posted yesterday following my conversation with CPSC Spokesperson Scott Wolfson.
And Tenenbaum’s warning is right on if you are concerned about exposure to cadmium, which, like lead interferes with brain development. Cadmium also causes cancer.
Cadmium is shiny and cheap, especially since cadmium’s price continues to drop as we switch out of nickel-cadmium batteries. So if a manufacturer has a choice between using cadmium or zinc alloy, the usual substitute for lead, the manufacturer will select the less expensive cadmium. Cadmium is also malleable at lower temperatures than zinc. And since cadmium isn’t regulated under the CPSIA, manufacturers can use it. That being said, it looks likely that the CPSC will act to declare high levels of cadmium in children’s jewelry to constitute banned hazardous substances under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.