Wal-Mart Pulls Children's Jewelry Due to Toxic Chemical

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Wal-Mart Inc is taking action after an Associated Press report this week that some of its children’s charm bracelets and pendants made in China contained cadmium, a toxic metal. Some Chinese manufacturers began using cadmium in place of lead due to warnings issued by the US federal government that these heavy metals cause health problems.

The tests, conducted by Ashland University (Ohio) chemistry professor Jeff Weidenhamer, found that many of the 103 charms and bracelets purchased from national and regional franchises in New York, Ohio, Texas and California contained between 80 and 90% cadmium by weight. Wal-Mart was not the only chain involved. Claire’s Jewelry and Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” pendants were also found to have significant cadmium content.

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Cadmium is a known carcinogen that is toxic even in low concentrations. It is used in many different areas of manufacturing, including ceramics and electronics. Acute exposure to cadmium fumes may cause flu-like symptoms such as chills, muscle aches and fever. Long term exposure can lead to respiratory conditions, including pneumonitis and pulmonary edema.

Because plants can take up cadmium from the soil through the roots, there have been some reports of exposure through food and tobacco. The largest exposure to the population is in cigarette smoke. Absorption in the lungs is more efficient than through the gut lining; as much as 50% of the cadmium content of a cigarette can be absorbed in the body during smoking.

Cadmium, like lead, is particularly dangerous for small children, because their small, growing bodies can absorb the toxic chemicals more readily and store them for years. Ingestion of any significant amount can cause immediate poisoning and irreversible damage to the liver and kidneys. Studies have also shown that exposure to cadmium can delay brain development and lead to learning disabilities. Of the CDC’s list of the 275 most hazardous chemicals in the environment, cadmium ranks number 7.

The bracelets and charms have not officially been recalled, because as of yet, there is no regulation against the use of cadmium in jewelry, unlike lead, which has been banned for use in children’s products under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

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