May 11, 2010

Feds Look Into Harmful Kids’ Jewelry

Federal regulators are stepping up their investigation in an effort to keep dangerous items off store shelves after another recall on children's jewelry was announced Monday due to high levels of the toxic metal cadmium.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission sent inspectors to 10 of the largest ports in the nation to screen imports of children's jewelry for cadmium, a spokesman for the agency told The Associated Press (AP).

The surveillance and detection program utilized by inspectors to detect cadmium has been expanded to include special guns that shoot x-rays into jewelry to estimate how much cadmium the item might contain, spokesman Scott Wolfson said.

Increased scrutiny came about as the agency put a voluntary recall on about 19,000 "Best Friends" charm bracelet sets made in China -- where most children's jewelry originates -- and sold at the jewelry and accessories store Claire's, which has more than 3,000 stores in Europe and North America.

High levels of cadmium in the charm bracelets were confirmed by agency scientists after a report was made by AP in January. The recall only pertained to items previously sold at Claire's. Several days after AP's initial investigation was made public, the chain said it would stop selling the item.

Testing conducted by the AP showed that the bracelets sold at Claire's contained as much as 91 percent cadmium by weight, and alarming amounts of the substance was shed during the test that examined how much cadmium children might be exposed to if they accidentally swallowed the charms.

While the CPSC does not release its own results, they said that: "Cadmium is toxic if ingested by children and can cause adverse health effects." Medical research shows that cadmium in high levels is a known carcinogen and can harm kidneys and bones.

Consumers are urged to take the charm bracelets back to Claire's -- which were sold for around $12 -- and get a replacement or refund, according to the announcement.

The CPSC identified the maker of the bracelets as Dae Yeon Industries Corp. of China.

The chain announced that it would pull the item from the store shelves, but released a statement saying the items were safe, but the decision was made "out of an abundance of caution." On Monday, Claire's did not immediately respond to a request for comment, including why it waited four months to agree to a recall for the charm bracelets it had sold in the year prior to the AP story.

The recall on Monday was the third prompted by AP's investigation. Before this year, no consumer product in the USA had been recalled because of cadmium.

Representatives of jewelry importers and manufacturers have opposed the idea that children's metal jewelry is unsafe. Michael Gale, the executive director of the Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association, has talked with several state lawmakers that are considering placing strict limits on cadmium in jewelry.

Gale warned AP that if those laws pass, it would be almost impossible to put any lower-priced children's jewelry in stores where those laws apply.


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