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Children Exposed To Toxin in Jewelry

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Los Angeles, CAProducts made in China are once again in the spotlight after an Associated Press (AP) investigation of children's jewelry made in China found that 12 of 103 pieces contained at least 10 percent of the toxic metal cadmium. Some of the jewelry, such as the "Best Friends" charms sold for bracelets at Claire's stores, contained as much as 80 to 90 percent cadmium.

The publication of the investigation on January 10 prompted some stores, including Wal-Mart and Claire's, to pull any jewelry mentioned in the investigation. Meanwhile, according to the AP, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission said it will open an investigation into the matter.

AP investigators put jewelry through a stomach acid test to see how much cadmium would be released from the jewelry. One of the charms released more cadmium over 24 hours than is deemed "safe exposure" by the World Health Organization for a 33-pound child over 60 weeks.

Jewelry makers use cadmium because it is shiny, strong, malleable at low temperatures and cheap. Cadmium has a lower melting point than zinc—approximately 100 degrees lower—which means factories burn less energy. Furthermore, cadmium is lighter than zinc, so buyers get more per ton.

The problem is that cadmium has been linked to lung cancer and is known to hinder brain development in young children. Children do not have to swallow the item containing cadmium to be exposed to the carcinogen. In fact, cadmium can enter the body even if a child simply sucks on or bites a piece of jewelry with high enough levels of cadmium.

According to Statistics Canada, chronic exposure to cadmium can cause other serious problems, including kidney damage, bone mineral density loss and hypertension. Inhalation of cadmium can cause life-threatening lung problems. According to the Associated Press, cadmium ranks number seven on the Centers for Disease Control's list of the 257 most hazardous substances in the environment.

Cadmium is banned from use in paint applied to children's toys, but not jewelry.

In 2007, Chinese-made toys were recalled over dangerous levels of lead. However, when the US enacted stricter regulations on lead, manufacturers turned to cadmium instead.



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