by Diana Urban
In the midst of what is now being called “The Great Recession” with its concomitant impact on our state budget and family well-being, a parent pointed out to me a recall of 55,000 pieces of children’s jewelry that contained over 55% Cadmium. The jewelry in question was based on the popular “Princess and the Frog” movie and was being sold at Walmart.
My first reaction was to be stunned that a highly toxic heavy metal was being used to produce children’s jewelry. In what universe is that acceptable?
Cadmium is a Grade One carcinogen (the most toxic classification) it causes kidney damage, bone loss, neurological developmental problems and is a hormone disrupter. It is listed #7 on the Center for Disease Control’s list of the 250 most toxic substances. That puts Cadmium ahead of Arsenic.
In 1990, the State of CT banned it along with Mercury, Lead, and Hexavalent Chromium from packaging material to prevent these toxic materials from ending up in our landfills. But it was okay to have it in children’s jewelry? Just what was going on here?
A little research revealed that after the Federal Government passed the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) which heavily regulated Lead, foreign suppliers started looking for a cheap substitute. Enter inexpensive and abundant Cadmium. Although the European Union bans Cadmium in all children’s products and extended that to electronic products as well, children’s metal jewelry is completely unregulated in the US.
There are very weak solubility standards for Cadmium in toys in the CPSA but jewelry is completely left out. Any parent knows how little kids like to suck on jewelry and often even taste or swallow it.
Bruce Fowler, Cadmium specialist and toxicologist from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said, “There is nothing positive you can say about this metal. It is a poison”
In 2006, a four-year-old boy died in Minnesota after ingesting a lead charm. In a particularly heart-breaking scenario, the child went on a play-date and when he got home began feeling ill. As his Mom had no knowledge of any small objects he might have swallowed, she thought it was a “tummy bug”
When he continued to get worse, she took him to the ER where they treated it as the flu. He became increasingly sick and then his body started shutting down. Desperate for answers, they did an X-ray and saw the object. It was too late. After four days of suffering, the child died.
His death was a major contributor to the Government regulating Lead. My point is that Cadmium is just as toxic, and in some cases more toxic than Lead. Unless we act this tragedy could be repeated!
Fortunately, some of our retailers are starting to demand that their suppliers get rid of Cadmium in kid’s jewelry. Walmart is beginning to label jewelry “Cadmium free.” In my mind, although it is a good start for industry to respond, it is not enough; so I introduced HB5413 An Act Banning Cadmium in Children’s Jewelry.
We have made the law effective in 2014 to give the industry time to adjust. That is where you come in. If consumers refuse to buy jewelry that contains Cadmium, manufacturers won’t make it. In the simplest sense, that is how a market works! My fervent hope is that during that time the federal government will step up and institute meaningful nation wide regulations for Cadmium. There is no excuse. There are acceptable substitutes that are not toxic.
We got the bill out of the House 144 to 0 but the lobbyists proceeded to work the Senate hard and succeeded in amending the bill on the last night of Session. The amendment killed the bill if I couldn’t get it re-passed in the House. At two minutes to midnight we re-passed the bill in the House and became the second state in the country to enact this ban.
It really comes down to this: Cadmium causes cancer – how much Cadmium do you want your children eating?
Dr. Michael Harbut, who treated adult victims of Cadmium poisoning and is director of the Environmental Cancer Program at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, said “In my view, the answer should be none.”