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Cadmium found in high levels in jewelry poses real dangers for kids

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Cadmium in jewelry

The bioavailability of cadmium in jewelry poses genuine health risks to children, finds an investigation. Scientists conducted a study of the toxic metal following a report of the potential for harm from the toxin by the Associated Press last year.

Damaged jewelry leaches even more toxic cadmium than known

Researches say they were "completely surprised" to find such high amounts of the toxin in inexpensive jewelry and now find high levels of the heavy metal in some jewelry pieces at much higher levels than are safe.

The findings, published in Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), reveal inexpensive jewelry can release high levels the toxin when children mouth or accidentally ingest the metal. Scientists say they found up to 90% cadmium by weight in some pieces.

In the current study, the scientists found just mouthing a piece of cadmium jewelry can release 100 times the recommended amount of safe exposure of cadmium. They also found damaged jewelry can release 30 times more than that in separate tests.

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The findings from last year prompted the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to set limits on allowable amounts of bioavailable cadmium - but the Commission based those recommendations on the amount of the toxin leached after being soaked in a saline solution for 6 hours, or in dilute hydrochloric acid for 24 hours. The first scenario simulates placing jewelry in the mouth, and the second in the stomach.

Study author Jeffrey Weidenhamer of Ashland University in Ohio said, "Our hope is that the potential hazards of cadmium-laden jewelry will be taken seriously. While the bioavailability of cadmium from many items was low, the amounts of cadmium obtained from other items were extraordinarily high and clearly dangerous if these items were mouthed or swallowed by children."

Food and tobacco exposure are the primary sources of cadmium exposure in humans that comes from fertilizers. Ill health effects occur over time and include kidney, bone, lung, and liver disease, versus acute toxicity.

Cadmium is a heavy metal used in some batteries and inexpensive jewelry that mostly comes from China to the United States. Last year's investigation, followed by the new research, shows children are at high risk for heath problems from mouthing or swallowing the inexpensive jewelry.

The researchers found the potential for cadmium ingestion by children from inexpensive jewelry is much higher than previously known and "clearly dangerous" to kids. Currently, there is no formal standard set for allowable amounts of the toxin in jewelry.

Photo credit: morguefile.com