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Easy as Cupcake: Get Cadmium out of Kids' Jewelry

Posted on Aug 27, 2010 | Comments (1)
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In the seventh story of our ongoing series, "Independence from Toxic Chemicals," Ryan Berghoff reports on why California should get the Cadmium out of children's jewelry.

Senator Fran Pavley’s bill, SB 929, which  sets strict limits on the use of cadmium in children’s jewelry, recently passed the California Senate with a large majority vote (26-10) and is now on its way to the governor for his signature. At the present time, federal law restricts cadmium, a known carcinogen, only in painted toys. There are currently no restrictions on the use of cadmium in children’s jewelry, and recent reports show that some jewelry has high concentrations of cadmium. 

Earlier this year, the Center for Environmental Health found a children’s necklace with a delicious-looking cupcake pendant that was 75 percent cadmium. Cadmium is a heavy metal that can cause cancer, developmental problems, and genetic damage, which is why it is crucial that it not be used in children’s jewelry. 

Specifically, Senator Pavley’s bill would prohibit a person from manufacturing, shipping, selling, offering for sale, or offering for promotional purposes children’s jewelry that contains any component or is made of any material that is more than 0.03% cadmium by weight. The tests that California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control currently uses to measure the amount of lead in jewelry can also measure cadmium and other metals.  Additionally, the bill authorizes DTSC to regulate cadmium in children’s jewelry as a product category under the Green Chemistry Program.

In 2006 Senator Pavley authored a law that set strict limits on the use of hazardous levels of lead, a powerful neurotoxin, in jewelry. In 2008, because of mounting nationwide concerns, the federal government set standards to limit the lead content of all children’s products, including jewelry.

In January, the Associated Press released the results of its investigation on the use of cadmium in jewelry and found that some foreign manufacturers were replacing one dangerous metal (lead) with another (cadmium).  Some of the pieces tested had concentrations as high as 90 percent cadmium. Cadmium is a soft metal used in batteries, pigments, electroplating, plastic, and alloys. It currently ranks No. 7 on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s priority list of 275 most hazardous substances in the environment. It is a known carcinogen and causes an array of reproductive problems and like lead, cadmium may cause developmental problems in young children.

“It’s a shame that jewelry makers are using a loophole in the law to harm our children,” said Senator Pavley. “There is absolutely no excuse for manufacturers to use this dangerous agent in products for kids.”

Washington, Connecticut, Illinois and Minnesota have all already passed restrictions on cadmium in jewelry while five additional states have introduced bills, including California’s SB 929.

Passing this bill will enhance the safety of California’s children as well as promote chemical reform across the nation. It is critical that California lead the way in chemical policy reform in order to set an example for the rest of the nation. Passing this bill will be a huge accomplishment, but there is still more work to be done, and California is working to ensure a stronger Green Chemistry Initiative as well as better TSCA (Toxic Substance Control Act) reform.

Ryan Berghoff is a recent graduate from the Society and Environment program at the University of California Berkeley and is an intern at the Center for Environmental Health.

Comments on this post

Thank you, Governor Schwarzenegger, for signing this important piece of legislation and protecting kids health.