Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on January 12, 2010
A new year, a new Chinese safety scandal. If 2007 was the year of lead-tainted toys, 2008 was the year of melamine-laced milk and 2009 was the year of defective Chinese drywall, the new year could be the year of the poisoned trinkets. According to an Associated Press investigative story published yesterday, Chinese manufacturers are putting cadmium into children’s costume jewelry. Because they can’t use lead anymore, the AP reports, some Chinese companies have been using the heavy metal in the production of items like charm bracelets and pendants. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s chairman, Inez Tenenbaum, is promising a crackdown, telling a toy safety conference here in Hong Kong today that “voluntary efforts will only take us so far.”
How dangerous is cadmium? Not very, according to the website Cadmium.org. (Yes, the mineral has its own website.) “Cadmium is recognized to produce toxic effects on humans. Long-term occupational exposure can cause adverse health effects on the lungs and kidneys. Under normal conditions, adverse human health effects have not been encountered from general population exposure to cadmium.” The website is published by the International Cadmium Association.
For a less sanguine take on cadmium, though, check out the web site of OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) cadmium “is an extremely toxic metal commonly” and overexposure “may occur even in situations where trace quantities of cadmium are found.” Scary stuff. Following the melamine scandals, in which thousands of Chinese children ended up in the hospital and some died after drinking milk that contained the industrial chemical, it’s hard to give Chinese manufacturers the benefit of the doubt. The U.S. and Chinese governments now need to move fast to reassure worried parents both inside and outside China that their daughters’ play jewelry is safe.