Posted by Claudia Grazioso on September 29, 2011
One of my daughters is developing quite a taste for bling. Every day before we leave for school, after we put our shoes on and pack our backpacks, but before we pick up the lunch boxes on the way out the door, she stops to sift through her favorite box of treasures for just the right necklace, bracelet or tiara to finish her outfit. It’s an attention to detail I admire, as I frequently forget to put on my watch and it’s still a small miracle to me that I’ve never lost my engagement ring. The other day I was watching her weigh her options — a small glittery butterfly on a bright silver chain or bright pink heart bracelet — when a thought ran through my mind: Didn’t I hear something awhile back about a very toxic substance in children’s jewelry? Cadmium, I think it was called…
Cadmium, indeed. And when I’d heard about cadmium being found in children’s jewelry, I wasn’t really worried because at the time, none of my kids showed the slightest interest in jewelry. I probably thought that was at least one thing I didn’t have to worry about. I hadn’t anticipated the kindergarten fashion show my daughter now dresses for every morning.
Cadmium is extremely toxic. It has been linked to cancer and kidney problems including renal failure. And apparently when the U.S. wised up and finally banned the use of lead in children’s jewelry, manufacturers in China complied by swapping out the lead and swapping in the cadmium. Lovely.
The effects of cadmium on children is not yet well known, largely because cadmium poisoning is mostly seen in people who have worked in industrial plants where they’ve been exposed. But cadmium is extremely toxic and, as if often the case with toxic substances, children might be more susceptible to the ill effects because their bodies are still developing. And of course children are a lot more likely to chew on their jewelry and suck on their beads than grown-ups are.
Now some lawmakers are pushing to extend the federal ban on lead to include cadmium, but in the meantime, parents are left to sift through their children’s treasure boxes themselves and wonder if it’s really just one big sparkling toxic mess. What we do know is that most of the tainted jewelry was bought at Claire’s and Wal-Mart stores. Also, Target and The Gap have stated they would all but eliminate cadmium-containing jewelry in their stores. Though the “all but” gives me pause, my plan is to empty out my daughter’s treasure box and replace it with new jewelry from stores that are working towards being cadmium-free. And I’ll have the Don’t Suck on Your Jewelry talk, too.