U.S. Consumer Product Safety CommissionClaire's Boutiques recalled about 19,000 of these charm bracelets for high levels of cadmium in May.
California lawmakers yesterday passed a bill that would set strict limits for cadmium in jewelry. If signed by the governor, California would become the fourth state to regulate the heavy metal in jewelry.
The bill prohibits manufacturing, shipping or selling jewelry that contains more than 0.03 percent cadmium by weight starting in 2012. SB 929, authored by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Santa Monica, passed the Senate on a 23-11 vote.
Cadmium is a known carcinogen that can damage lungs and kidneys, severely irritate the stomach and cause bones to become fragile. Children have a greater risk for exposure if they regularly suck on or bite jewelry with high cadmium levels.
An Associated Press investigation in January found that some manufacturers in China, barred from using lead in children's jewelry, were turning to cadmium. The AP found jewelry that contained as much as 91 percent cadmium was being sold in the United States.
"These manufacturers are replacing one toxic metal for another when less toxic alternatives like zinc are available," Pavley said in a statement. "It's completely irresponsible to use cadmium in jewelry marketed to children."
The Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association denies that cadmium is being widely substituted for lead. But, it says on its website, "it is important to understand that safe levels of cadmium have existed in fashion and fine jewelry (both adult and children's jewelry) for decades … there are no reported adverse health effects in either children or adults from its presence."
The association represents more than 225 retailers, manufacturers and vendors, including some that have voluntarily recalled products for cadmium this year. It supports a national standard that would limit cadmium and other heavy metals in jewelry based on migration standards, or how much of a substance could leach into the human body. The U.S. uses a migration standard to regulate heavy metals in toys.
A number of retailers and manufacturers have recalled cadmium-tainted products this year. In January, about 55,000 necklaces with crown- and frog-shaped pendants – mementos for the Disney movie "The Princess and the Frog" – were recalled from Wal-Mart stores. In June, McDonalds recalled about 12 million "Shrek Forever After 3D" drinking glasses.
The AP investigation and recalls have pushed some states to pass limits on cadmium in jewelry. Minnesota, Connecticut and Illinois passed restrictions this year. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., has introduced a federal bill to limit cadmium and other heavy metals in jewelry.