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 ( 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 ( 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


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