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Cadmium-jewelry bill awaits Gov's signature

September 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The latest battle to keep kids safe from toxic materials is on the governor's desk waiting to be signed. It bans jewelry containing cadmium, a known cancer-causing agent. A lot of that jewelry is manufactured in China. Just when we thought the lead problem was behind us, there's another metal to worry about.

While kids' jewelry is supposed to accessorize their outfits, the young ones think they're also toys. We found little Olivia making a meal out of her beaded necklace.

"She's 2 and a half, and she puts everything in her mouth. Toys, clothing, what have you," said concerned friend Joshua Lurie-Terrell. "How do I know the things she's putting in are safe?"

State Senator Fran Pavley led the charge in 2006 to ban hazardous levels of lead in children's jewelry, but the Santa Monica Democrat discovered a dirty industry secret: The replacement metal isn't any safer.

"They simply substituted, in many cases, the use of lead for cadmium. Cadmium is equally toxic. It is a problem to children," said state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Santa Monica).

Cadmium ranks seventh on the Centers for Disease Control's list of the most hazardous substances in the environment. It's linked to cancers and developmental problems in young children.

Pavley and the Center for Environmental Health allowed parents to test their children's jewelry with an X-ray florescence machine. The cadmium levels were shocking, from 500 parts per million to 24,000 parts per million.

Pavley's proposal virtually bans cadmium, capping use at 350 parts per million.

"There's no way to really tell which stores will have it more generally than others," said Matt Nevins, research assistant at the Center for Environmental Health.

The samples are from a variety of retailers that are household names and each component of the jewelry is tested, whether it's the latch or the charms.

"This one was purchased at WalMart, Miley Cyrus's line of jewelry. And we found quite a bit of cadmium in her line," said Nevins.

Olivia's blue beads were put to the test. While it didn't have cadmium, it did have lead -- lots of it, probably because it was made before the lead ban.

"I thought I was being a good dad by paying attention to the food she ate. But now I have to pay attention to the minerals in the toys she plays with too," said Joshua Lurie-Terrell.

Senator Pavley urged Governor Schwarzenegger to sign her bill banning cadmium so parents wouldn't have to worry about it.

There's no opposition to the legislation. The Toy Industry Association has backed off its opposition.


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