The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Why Do Children's Toys Contain Toxic Cadmium?
By Emily Clarke
When I went shopping for my 10-year-old brother Robert’s birthday, I didn’t buy anything sharp or that shot projectiles. Only later did I realize that toys that don’t look dangerous can secretly harbor toxic chemicals.
Cadmium, a metal sometimes used as a cheap alternative to lead to strengthen metal alloys, can be found in some toys. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency Research on Cancer have labeled cadmium and its compounds “known human carcinogens.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calls them “probable human carcinogens.” And they are highly toxic in other ways.
Cadmium shows up frequently in children’s products particularly in children’s jewelry, toys with batteries and paint coatings. A 2010 investigation by the Associated Press tested more than 100 children’s jewelry items from stores in Texas, New York, California and Ohio and found that some of them contained up to 90 percent cadmium. The story prompted Claire’s Accessories to take charm bracelets off the shelf and Wal-Mart to withdraw jewelry branded Miley Cyrus and The Princess and the Frog. Three years ago, McDonald’s voluntarily recalled 12 million Shrek drinking glasses after the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said they contained cadmium.
In 2011, Congress adopted a standard limiting the amount of cadmium that can be used in toys. A voluntary standard has been established for the amount of cadmium that can be used in children’s jewelry. It is not legally binding on manufacturers. According to the CPSC, the standards are “adequate to address the risk of cadmium exposure” from such products.
Despite these standards and efforts to remove cadmium from children’s products, reports indicate that some products still contain cadmium at levels considered hazardous. For example, last year, the CPSC tested children’s jewelry from several stores and found several products with high levels of cadmium. No recalls or public warnings were issued as a result of these findings.
Given the health risks associated with cadmium, the U.S. government should follow the European Union’s lead and ban cadmium from a number of consumer products.
The Washington State government’s Department of Ecology publishes a list of 47 products that may contain cadmium. These include children’s clothes, furniture and art supplies. The vendors include Wal-Mart, Target and the Horizon Group.
The European Union bans cadmium, but the U.S. government does not. In 2010, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) proposed a bill banning cadmium in children’s jewelry, but Congress did not enact his bill. A few states have enacted cadmium bans.
The chemical is linked to many serious disorders. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks cadmium seventh out of 275 hazardous substances in the environment. The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry cites studies indicating younger animals are more susceptible than adults for loss of bone and bone strength. Before children are even born they can develop problems from cadmium exposure. A team of Swedish and Bangladeshi researchers found that 1,616 Bangladeshi women exposed to cadmium gave birth to girls with lower birth weights and smaller head circumferences.
Cadmium is linked to learning disabilities in children. A 2011 Harvard University study of 2,000 children concluded that those exposed to cadmium were three times more likely to have learning disabilities. Cadmium is also linked to breast cancer, lung cancer and kidney disease.
A number of health and consumer groups have petitioned the CPSC and EPA to restrict the use of cadmium in children’s products. Yet even after the cadmium in jewelry outbreak, the CPSC did not order mandatory recalls or warn the public of the dangers of cadmium. The most the CPSC has done to address cadmium in children’s products is to recommend an acceptable daily intake level of cadmium. Last year, the EPA issued a final rule for manufacturers of cadmium to submit unpublished health and safety date on cadmium. However, less than a month later, EPA withdrew it due to a massive amount of complaints from industry.
The federal Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976 should reformed and updated to permit stronger restrictions on cadmium. The proposed Chemical Safety Improvement Act, which is backed by the chemical industry, does not mention children and other vulnerable populations and would not give EPA greater authority to act against cadmium. It would allow companies to bypass state laws and regulations, such as California’s Proposition 65, which requires disclosure of chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. Cadmium is on that list.
The lack of a national standard for cadmium in products is downright frightening. We need a bill that protects children, so that kids, like my brother, can enjoy their childhood without worrying about toxic toys.
Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH pages for more related news on this topic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.