LOS ANGELES — Federal regulators failed to pursue recalls after they found cadmium-tainted jewelry on store shelves, despite their vow to keep the toxic trinkets out of children's hands, an Associated Press investigation shows.
Officials at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also have not warned parents about the contaminated items already in their homes.
More than two years after the AP revealed that some Chinese factories were substituting cadmium for banned lead, the CPSC hasn't determined the extent of the contamination.
Cadmium is a potentially hazardous metal that is known to cause cancer and disrupt the reproductive system.
Contaminated jewelry is less prevalent than before its presence was first documented. However, rings, bracelets and pendants containing cadmium and marketed for preteen girls were purchased over the last year. The AP and representatives of two consumer groups were able to buy the items in Los Angeles, suburban San Francisco, central Ohio and upstate New York.
In response to AP's reporting, the CPSC said it did all it could given limited resources. A spokesman credited the agency's focus on intercepting jewelry before it got onto shelves as the reason that cadmium did not become the widespread scourge that lead was several years ago.
The CPSC has a $115 million budget that supports 545 full-time employees responsible for regulating thousands of products.
And, under agency rules, it is difficult to mandate that a firm recall an item.