WARNING TO PARENTS: Throw away your children's costume metal jewelry. It could kill them if ingested.
It's the latest alert from health experts after recent studies and news investigations found the toxic metal cadmium in children's jewelry made in China.
The findings prompted stores such as Walmart to pull the jewelry from shelves across the country and federal consumer agencies to issue warnings and announce investigations into use of the metal.
Research by the nonprofit Center for Environmental Health and an investigation by the Associated Press found one in 10 pieces of metal children's jewelry contains cadmium.
It might seem drastic to throw away your children's lovable metal charms or the bling they so adore without knowing if it even contains cadmium. But here's the problem: Testing the jewelry for the metal would cost a small fortune compared with the price you paid for the jewelry in the first place.
"Based on our concern with lead in jewelry, we have basically urged parents to do away with children's jewelry," said Charles Margulis, a spokesman for the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, Calif., which has been studying the issue of cadmium for two years.
"There's no cheap and easy way to detect whether it's there," Margulis said. "Our advice is simply avoid metal jewelry."
It's not wearing the jewelry that is the problem. Children often tend to suck on their jewelry and can swallow the metal. Cadmium is known to cause cancer and disrupt the reproductive system.
"That's the biggest hazard — swallowing it," Margulis said.
The Center for Environmental Health recommends using cloth or leather jewelry for children. Fine jewelry made of gold and silver pose no known health hazard to children.
Cadmium became the metal of choice after authorities restricted the use of lead in children's jewelry.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, warned during a speech Tuesday in Hong Kong against replacing lead with cadmium, barium and antimony in children's jewelry. She said the commission is developing standards for use of heavy metals in children's products.
"Voluntary efforts will only take us so far," Tenenbaum said in a statement issued by the commission.
"All of us should be committed to keeping hazardous or toxic levels of heavy metals out of surface coatings and substrates of toys and children's products," she said.
The Associated Press also reported the Chinese government announced it would look into the use of cadmium in children's jewelry.
Walmart reacted to the issue with a written statement, promising its own review of the use of cadmium in children's jewelry.
"We will immediately remove from sale those items identified in recent media reports regarding cadmium while our own investigation is being completed, and until more is known. …
"Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and associates. We will actively participate in the Consumer Product Safety Commission's investigation, along with suppliers and industry associations, to provide any assistance as they determine what the standards should be."
Ivan Penn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2332. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Consumers_Edge and become a fan of Consumer's Edge on Facebook.