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Cadmium in Children's Jewelry from China is Worse than Lead

Many of you may have already seen lots of articles about the investigative Associated Press report on the shocking amount of cadmium in cheap Chinese made jewelry sold in places like Walmart, Claire's and a dollar store.

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Cadmium is a naturally occurring heavy metal which is highly toxic - it's worse than lead in many ways. It is carcinogenic and causes serious damage to the kidneys and liver in particular. It accumulates in the body which could build up to really toxic levels. It's just plain nasty. Like lead, there are deleterious effects on young children who swallow or put jewelry in their mouths. They are at risk for learning disabilities and permanent IQ loss.

Why cadmium? It's a cheap alternative to lead which is now not allowed. Made in a country where lax regulatory policing prevails (remember the tainted milk and pet food tragic scandals?), and sold in countries without cadmium testing requirements (for jewelry), this toxic metal has sneaked in under the radar.  The AP investigation tested 103 pieces of jewelry bought from various stores - 12% had at least 10% of cadmium. One piece was a spectacular 91 % cadmium! Check the AP report below to see how the testing was done including the leaching experiments with the charms they bought. The tests also simulate exposure to stomach acids. The reported jewelry findings have been pulled from the stores.

I've never been a fan of jewelry for young children under 5. So this will be a wake up call for parents to think twice before purchasing any jewelry for little kids and especially the cheap stuff. You really get what you pay for. The release of the report was rather ironic in timing though - after Christmas.

Last words :

  • It's a safe bet to say there will be mandatory tests for cadmium in jewelry in the future just as there are now for lead.
  • The publicity will hopefully spur the manufacturers to stop using cadmium in jewelry findings altogether - ir's apparently a fairly common practice for their own domestic market. Chinese consumers need protection too.
  • If you need metal beads which aren't sterling silver, go for zinc which also looks silvery but is not toxic. Lead-free pewter (a tin alloy) is another good option.
  • If you're a metal smith, you might wish to check Charles Lewton-Brain's Metals Safety Information on Ganoskin. Proper ventilation is important because inhaling toxic metals (fumes and dust) is dangerous. Chronic exposure - small amounts over years - is just as bad as one single acute exposure.
  • Smoker? Now might be a good time to consider quitting. Research shows 10% of the cadmium content of a cigarette is inhaled - "tobacco smoking is a major source for cadmium accumulation in man".

AP: Feds probe cadmium in kids' jewelry from China
Consumer Product Safety Commission's Guide for parents
Trinkets in Trash after Cadmium Warning
Wikipedia : Cadmium
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 


  1. Pearl this is very valuable information. I hadn't heard the report about cadium. Hard to believe and very sad. Goes to show the value of making your own jewelry and knowing what you are using to make it!

  2. Interesting information about the cadmium in the Chinese jewelry for children. Has any testing been done beads imported from China that we may find in bead stores?

    Carol in Arizona via email

  3. Yes, I agree with you Willi - it is so much better making jewelry yourself when you can control what you use in making it.

    Carol - I don't think so. That's the problem. If it isn't a requirement to test for cadmium nobody would bother to do the testing. They do test for cadmium in children's toys (in the paint) but not for jewelry. That's why I am fairly confident there will be cadmium testing requirements for jewelry findings in the future after this scary report.

  4. Scary information - I used to have a lot of cheap jewelry myself as a preteen, luckily well past the age that I would stick it in my mouth but still, makes me angry to think something seemingly so harmless could be so dangerous! Thanks for sharing!

  5. This is a very necessary post Pearl...I hadn't heard about the cadmium issue so thank you for posting...

    I've been using lead free pewter beads more and more they look great and are safe!

    I have looked for lead & nickle free items for over a year now...

    I do agree there will be cadmium testing requirements soon!!!


  6. It's also important to buy your beads from a reputable source who can tell you what the beads are actually made from. For example poor quality zinc beads may contain cadmium as well. The testing requirements are definitely necessary.

  7. I just read about this a few days ago and was going to blog it as well (just haven't gotten to it yet). The more it gets out there the better. Be careful parents.

  8. Thanks, Pearl, for posting this information. It's always been important to me to use sterling silver and gold or gold-filled findings in all my work, and this makes me feel even more committed. I have also found some nice American-made, culinary grade pewter, which is pretty and safe, since cost is becoming an issue. I'm not a fan of children's jewellery, either. Here's hoping those regulations are put enacted quickly.

  9. wow! kids should just live simple jewelry, no cell phones, no makeup. all can have bad stuff for them and all not necessary!

  10. Amazing that it has been a year now since this incident with cadmium happened. We all learned a valuable lesson. Just before Christmas of 2009 I spotted some adorable children's jewelry in Wal-Mart. Normally I'm not a Wally World shopper but occasionally I go there for quick office supplies. Looking at this jewelry I could not believe the low prices and did notice a warning label saying "not recommended for children under the age of 14". There was no mention that it did or could contain any toxic material. Unfortunately I purchased one of the sweet charm necklaces for my granddaughter. Then, just a day or two latter, I saw an article in my local newspaper regarding dangerous cadmium in children's jewelry. The bells and whistle went off in my head and suddenly the strange warning on the jewelry box began to make sense. You can't imagine how quickly I got on the phone and told my daughter to take Lexie's necklace and throw it away. Things like that should never happen and it was inexcusable that China would manufacture something like that...but what's even more amazing is that we keep doing business with them and importing the goods that are manufactured there.

  11. It's not just the export market but their own consumers who are also at risk. China is well aware they have a huge regulatory and safety problem for many parts of their industry. It will take time to put important regulations into place and to enforce them.


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