Jewelry supplier Tween Brands, has agreed to eliminate the toxic metal cadmium from its products after a first-of-its-kind settlement. The settlement covers all of California, but it will likely become a national company policy for Tween Brands, according to The Associated Press.
Tween Brands sells low-cost jewelry intended for children up through adults.
"As a company, we are committed to working to ensure the well-being of our customers, and continue to work to ensure all of our products meet or exceed safety standards," Tween Brands said in a statement.
On Friday, the Center for Environmental Health, a California-based organization that seeks to protect people from industrial use of toxic chemicals, filed a case against the company with California's attorney general.
Beginning in January 2012, Tween Brands will face fines if the company sells jewelry that contains more than 0.03 percent cadmium.
Amid growing worry over cadmium in kids' jewelry, a study published on March 3 further found that that kids can be exposed to more than 100 times the recommended limit of this noxious metal when they accidentally swallow or put in their mouths common, inexpensive jewelry items.
Following strict regulation on lead content in children's items, many manufacturers, especially in China, have turned to cadmium as a cheap, shiny, and easy to work with metal for use in cheap jewelry, which is often marketed to kids.
Although lead is a potentially harmful metal at high exposure, cadmium is a much more noxious metal even at lower doses, and has been linked to kidney, bone and liver disease. It is also a known carcinogen.
Ironically, in an attempt to eradicate one toxin from our children's lives, we've traded up in toxicity, said Dr. Charles McKay, a medical toxicologist at Hartford Hospital-University of Connecticut Health Center.
What's more, we've traded a regulated substance, lead, for one that is not yet regulated in children's toys or in jewelry, he added.
The absence of regulations has opened the doors for some jewelry items to expose young kids to extremely high levels of this toxin when they suck on the jewelry or accidently ingest it. Of the 92 pieces of cadmium-containing jewelry tested in the study, which was published today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, two would expose children to 100 times the recommended limit on cadmium had they been swallowed.
And when the jewelry becomes scratched or damaged, as is often the case among anything a child wears or plays with regularly, the risk for exposure is even higher. For example, six damaged sandal charms tested in the study yielded 30 times as much cadmium as undamaged charms.
Cadmium poses an especial risk, said lead author Jeff Weidenhamer, a professor of chemistry at Ashland University, because it's impossible for parents to tell which items they buy contain the metal. Many don't, he said, and among those that do, often the levels are ostensibly safe but can still be quite toxic.
Cadmium is also of major concern because it accumulates in the body over the course of a lifetime, Weidenhamer said. "And the digestive systems of kids are more efficient at absorbing cadmium, so exposure to kids who swallow these items is of increased concern."