Brown Announces Plan To Protect Children From Exposure To Cadmium In Children’s Jewelry

Brown Writes to Consumer Safety Head Referencing Research by Ashland U. Professor Demonstrating High Level of Lead-Like Compound in Children’s Jewelry Imported from China

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced his support for new legislation that would prevent the manufacture, distribution or sale of children’s jewelry containing cadmium and other toxic heavy metals in children’s jewelry. These substances are carcinogens that, like lead, can compromise brain development in children. Brown also wrote to the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) alerting her to an Ashland University professor’s research on cadmium contained in children’s jewelry imported from China.

“Cadmium is a known carcinogen and research has shown that, like lead, it can hinder brain development in children,” Brown wrote in a letter to CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum.“Dr. Weidenhamer’s study illustrates that some manufacturers have chosen to jeopardize the health and safety of children. We need to prohibit the manufacture, sale or distribution of children’s jewelry containing cadmium.”

Cadmium is a soft, silver-white metal that typically is used to manufacture pigments and batteries and in the metal-plating and plastics industries.  Cadmium is a known carcinogen and studies show that direct exposure has adverse developmental and reproductive effects and can lead to kidney disease, among other health problems.  Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to the dangerous effects of cadmium and other toxic heavy metals. Children’s growing bodies absorb these metals at much higher rates than adults and long-term cumulative exposure increases toxicity.

The Safe Kids’ Jewelry Act would prohibit the manufacture and sale of children’s jewelry – including charms, bracelets, pendants, necklaces, earrings, or rings – containing cadmium, barium or antimony. Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer, a chemistry professor at Ashland University, recently released a study that showed a growing presence of cadmium in children’s jewelry as foreign manufacturers switch from lead – now banned in children’s products – to cheap substitute metals.  Dr. Weidenhamer’s study tested 103 items from various states, including Ohio. Twelve of these items contained at least 10 percent cadmium, while two others contained lower amounts. The remaining 89 percent of items were clean.

 In addition to banning children’s jewelry made with cadmium, barium or antimony, the Safe Kids’ Jewelry Act would provide for enforcement of the ban, as well as further study on whether other heavy metals should be banned for use in children’s jewelry or other children’s products.  Specifically, the bill would:

  • Protect children:  Children are most vulnerable to the health risks from cadmium and other heavy metals.  The bill would ban the manufacture and sale of children’s jewelry containing cadmium, barium or antimony marketed for children ages 12 and under.  Products covered by the ban would include charms, bracelets, pendants, necklaces, earrings and rings.  The ban would take effect 90 days from enactment of the legislation.
  • Give the CPSC flexibility to designate the most effective testing and certification requirements:  The bill would give the Commission authority and flexibility to set stringent, effective testing and certification requirements for manufacturers to ensure the safety of children’s jewelry.
  • Sets criminal and civil penalties for violations:  Children’s jewelry containing cadmium, barium or antimony would be considered a “banned hazardous substance” under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (“FHSA”).  The bill would mandate application of criminal and/or civil penalties under the FHSA for any violations of the Safe Kids’ Jewelry Act.  The bill also would require the Commission to report annually to Congress on its actions to enforce the Safe Kids’ Jewelry Act, as well as whether the Commission imposed any criminal or civil penalties for violations of the Act.
  • Does not preempt State or local law:  A significant number of States and localities across the country are now considering enacting laws to ban sales of children’s jewelry containing cadmium and other heavy metals.  The bill would make clear that the Safe Kids’ Jewelry Act would not preempt State or local laws relating to regulation of products containing cadmium, barium or antimony.  The bill would also clarify that the Safe Kids’ Jewelry Act would not affect any enforcement action or liability of any person under State law. 
  • Requires CPSC to report to Congress regarding heavy metals which should be banned from children’s products:  The bill would require the Commission to study and report to Congress within one year on whether other heavy metals should be banned from use in children’s jewelry or other children’s products.

Sen. Brown also sent a letter to CPSC Chairman Inez Moore Tenenbaum, urging her to enforce immediate regulation beyond voluntary standards to ensure that foreign manufacturers eliminate toxic substances such as cadmium from children’s products.  The full text of Brown’s letter can be found below.

Brown is a leading advocate for consumer safety. He worked with Weidenhamer in 2007 to expose lead contaminants in Halloween items and encouraged the CPSC to remove children’s toys with unsafe levels of lead. He also introduced legislation that would call for a ban of toxic electronic waste in order to prevent it from being reimported to the U.S. as a child’s today or jewelry.


February 2, 2010


Inez Moore Tenenbaum
Chairman
Consumer Product Safety Commission
4330 East West Highway
Bethesda, MD 20814

Dear Chairman Tenenbaum,

I write to share my concerns about the results of a recent study done by Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer, a professor of Chemistry at Ashland University in Ohio.  Dr. Weidenhamer’s study found high levels of cadmium in jewelry imported from China that is being marketed to young children in the United States.  The contents of this report are troubling. Cadmium is a known carcinogen and research has shown that, like lead, it can hinder brain development in children. 

Recently, you addressed the APEC Toy Safety Initiative and urged members to ensure that manufacturers do not replace lead with other harmful substances such as cadmium.  Dr. Weidenhamer’s study illustrates that some manufacturers have failed to acknowledge this request and have chosen, instead, to jeopardize the health and safety of children.

I commend the Commission’s investigation of the products cited in Dr. Weidenhamer’s study.   But, immediate regulation beyond voluntary standards is needed to ensure that foreign manufacturers eliminate toxic substances such as cadmium from children’s products.  I am a proud co-sponsor of the Safe Kids’ Jewelry Act, sponsored by Senator Schumer of New York, which would prohibit the manufacture, sale or distribution of children’s jewelry containing cadmium, barium and antimony. 

However, the introduction of this legislation does not preclude the Consumer Product Safety Commission from acting on behalf of our nation’s children.  I urge you to promulgate regulatory standards for cadmium content in children’s articles as quickly as possible.  I also ask that you act vigilantly in the future to eliminate harmful substances from consumer products, especially those intended for children.

We must assure American consumers that the products they buy for their children are safe.  The dangers of cadmium exposure have been well established, and we must act quickly to prevent this substance from harming children.

Thank you for your efforts and I look forward to your response.
                                                           
Sincerely,

Sherrod Brown
United States Senator

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