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Toxic Metals In Children’s Jewelry And Toys:
Cadmium, A New Find.

There have been numerous recent reports of toxic metals, especially lead, in toy jewelry, lunch boxes and other inexpensive consumer items. This has resulted in recalls of a number of metallic toy jewelry items by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, as well as actions by state government agencies. At least one child has died as a result of ingestion of a metallic charm containing lead (Berg et al., 2006). Now another toxic metal has been found in a metal bead in a child’s bracelet made in China. This bracelet, Sassy Chic, was found to contain 227,000 mg/kg cadmium, which was 22.7% of the weight of this small, round metal bead that was held by a thin wire in a bracelet which had a mixture of metal and plastics beads. This small bead can be easily swallowed by a small child. It also had significant amounts of several other toxic metals, including nickel (3,900 mg/kg) and copper (44,400 mg/kg) and extremely high levels of zinc (443,000 mg/kg). While the dose of cadmium that is lethal to humans is not known with certainty, the CDC (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp5-c2.pdf) indicates that it is of the order of 25 mg/kg. For a child weighing 10 kg this would indicate that as little as 250 gm of cadmium may be fatal.

Cadmium is a human carcinogen, and also causes liver and kidney disease. This high concentration of cadmium in a small metal bead that could easily be swallowed by a small child is of significant concern. Acute ingestion of cadmium has been reported to cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea, which can lead to death (Hung and Chung, 2004). Later effects and chronic exposure leads to kidney failure (Wittman and Hu, 2001; Olsson et al., 2002; Katsnelson et al., 2007), liver dysfunction, bone damage (Wilson and Bhattacharyya, 1997; Alfven et al., 2002), lung and prostate cancer (Waalkes and Rehm, 1994) and neurobehavioral abnormalities (Viaene et al., 2000). The CDC document listed above also gives some evidence for birth defects and reproductive damage, especially in men.

The European Court of Justice has recently established standards for cadmium concentration in toys (http://www.tdctrade.com/alert/eu0604c.htm). Information on cadmium toxicity is available from the EPA IRIS database, which indicates that 25 mg/kg may be a lethal dose in humans. Additional information on cadmium can be found in the EPA Technical Factsheet on Cadmium, available at http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw/dwh/t-ioc/cadmium.html


References:

Alfven T, Jarup L and Elinder CG (2002) Cadmium and lead in blood in relation to low bone mineral density and tubular proteinuria. Environ Health Perspect 110: 699-702.

Berg KK, Hull HF, Zabel EW, et al. (2006) Death of a child after ingestion of a metallic charm – Minnesota, 2006. MMWR March 23, 2006; 55 (Dispatch): 1-2.

Hung YM and Chung HM (2004) Acute self-poisoning by ingestion of cadmium and barium. Nephrol Dial Transplant 19: 1308-1309.

Katsnelson BA, Kireyeva EP, Kuzmin SV, et al. (2007) An association between incipient renal damage and urine cadmium and lead levels in young Russian children: A case control study. Eur Epimarker 11: 1-8.

Viaene MK, Masschelein R, Leenders J et al. (2000) Neurobehavioural effects of occupational exposure to cadmium: a cross sectional epidemiological study. Occ Environ Med 57: 19-27.

Waalkes MP and Rehm S (1994) Cadmium and prostate cancer. J Toxicol Environ Health 43: 251-269.

Wilson AK and Bhattacharyya MH (1997) Effects of cadmium on bone: An in vivo model for the early response. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 145: 68-73.

Willman R and Hu H (2002) Cadmium exposure and nephropathy in a 28-year-old female metals worker. Environ Health Perspect 110: 1261-1266.


 


Please send questions or comments to: ihe@uamail.albany.edu

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