The average consumer knows that lead has been banned in the making of children’s toys for years, but not as widely known is that some manufacturers are substituting other metals in children’s products that might be just as dangerous.
An investigation by the Associated Press revealed some Chinese toy manufacturers have been substituting the heavy metal cadmium in children’s jewelry sold in the United States. According to the report, the most contaminated piece of jewelry tested was 91 percent cadmium by weight and other pieces contained between 80 and 90 percent cadmium. Testing also revealed the pieces shed the heavy metal, making it possible for children to ingest the dangerous heavy metal.
Cadmium is a known carcinogen and is sometimes compared to lead because it has the ability to interfere with brain development in young children. Children can face danger from just low-level doses if they suck or bite on the jewelry. One toxicologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called cadmium a poison. The metal is listed at number seven on the agency’s 275 most hazardous substances in the environment list.
Cadmium Use on the Rise after Lead Ban
According to those familiar with the jewelry industry in China, cadmium has been used in domestic products there for years. There are safer alternatives, but since lead has become heavily regulated under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, toy makers wanted to find a cheap substitute – at the same time the price of cadmium fell. The 2008 law did address cadmium, though the standards are significantly less strict than lead and apply only to painted toys, not to metal children’s jewelry.
The AP’s investigation tested a number of different toys, including three flip-flop bracelet charms sold at Walmart and purchased in 2008, charms from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer bracelets sold at Dollar N More stores, charms featured on Best Friends bracelets sold at Claire’s jewelry chains throughout the United States, and pendants from the Princess and the Frog necklaces sold at Walmart.
This was not the only time the public heard of Walmart’s involvement in selling children’s jewelry containing toxic metals. The company was forced to pull its Miley Cyrus line of jewelry after the AP determined it was knowingly selling charm bracelets and necklaces that contained cadmium. According to the report, Walmart said it would force suppliers to prove products contained little to no cadmium because of the initial investigation, but the new requirement did not apply to products that were already in stores.
Laws Do Little to Prevent Cadmium Use in Children’s Toys
Consumer advocates believe there is still not enough being done to prevent harmful exposure to cadmium and other toxic metals in children’s products. The federal consumer protection regulations currently in place do not go far enough to address cadmium restrictions on jewelry. Many of the toys named in the AP study were eventually recalled, but consumer advocates believe that wasn’t enough to protect children. In the United States, there have been at least 50 recalls involving millions of pieces of metal children’s jewelry, but there are still products available to children and already in their homes that contain cadmium.
Cadmium is a cheap metal that is not as highly regulated as lead. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued warnings to parents concerning metal children’s jewelry in general and the commission urges parents to avoid cheap metal toys, as well as inexpensive toys manufactured in Taiwan and China. Safety standards in these countries do not adhere to American safety standards, nor do toy makers receive the oversight they do here. In addition to lead and cadmium, there are also concerns about exposure to antimony and barium.
We want parents to understand the risks associated with certain toys and understand that it is possible to protect your child by educating yourself about these risks. However, we also know how difficult it can be to evaluate every item your child uses. No child should be harmed because toy manufacturers cut corners or save money by substituting dangerous parts for safer, more expensive ones. If you believe your child has been harmed by a defective toy or a toy containing dangerous metals, you have a right to take legal action.