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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.
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Cabin fever is often associated with being cooped up on a rainy weekend or stuck inside during a winter blizzard.
In reality, though, it can actually occur anytime you feel isolated or disconnected from the outside world.
What is cabin fever?<p>In popular expressions, cabin fever is used to explain feeling bored or listless because you've been stuck inside for a few hours or days. But that's not the reality of the symptoms.</p><p>Instead, cabin fever is a series of negative emotions and distressing sensations people may face if they're isolated or feeling cut off from the world.</p><p>These feelings of isolation and loneliness are more likely in times of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/yes-covid-19-cases-are-rising-why-you-still-need-to-practice-social-distancing" target="_blank">social distancing</a>, self-quarantining during a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-a-pandemic" target="_blank">pandemic</a>, or sheltering in place because of severe weather.</p><p>Indeed, cabin fever can lead to a series of symptoms that can be difficult to manage without proper coping techniques.</p><p>Cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological disorder, but that doesn't mean the feelings aren't real. The distress is very real. It can make fulfilling the requirements of everyday life difficult.</p>
What are the symptoms?<p>Symptoms of cabin fever go far beyond feeling bored or "stuck" at home. They're rooted in an intense feeling of isolation and may include:</p><ul><li>restlessness</li><li>decreased motivation</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irritability" target="_blank">irritability</a></li><li>hopelessness</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/unable-to-concentrate" target="_blank">difficulty concentrating</a></li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irregular-sleep-wake-syndrome" target="_blank">irregular sleep patterns</a>, including sleepiness or sleeplessness</li><li>difficulty waking up</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/lethargy" target="_blank">lethargy</a></li><li>distrust of people around you</li><li>lack of patience</li><li>persistent <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/depression-vs-sadness" target="_blank">sadness or depression<br></a></li></ul>
What can help you cope with cabin fever?<p>Because cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological condition, there's no standard "treatment." However, mental health professionals do recognize that the symptoms are very real.</p><p>The coping mechanism that works best for you will have a lot to do with your personal situation and the reason you're secluded in the first place.</p><p>Finding meaningful ways to engage your brain and occupy your time can help alleviate the distress and irritability that cabin fever brings.</p><p>The following ideas are a good place to start.</p>
When to get help<p>Cabin fever is often a fleeting feeling. You may feel irritable or frustrated for a few hours, but having a virtual chat with a friend or finding a task to distract your mind may help erase the frustrations you felt earlier.</p><p>Sometimes, however, the feelings may grow stronger, and no coping mechanisms may be able to successfully help you eliminate your feelings of isolation, sadness, or depression.</p><p>What's more, if your time indoors is prolonged by outside forces, like weather or extended shelter-in-place orders from your local government, feelings of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety" target="_blank">anxiety</a> and fear are valid.</p><p>In fact, anxiety may be at the root of some cabin fever symptoms. This may make symptoms worse.</p><p>If you feel that your symptoms are getting worse, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you understand what you're experiencing. Together, you can identify ways to overcome the feelings and anxiety.</p><p>Of course, if you're in isolation or practicing social distancing, you'll need to look for alternative means for seeing a mental health expert.</p><p>Telehealth options may be available to connect you with your therapist if you already have one. If you don't, reach out to your doctor for recommendations about mental health specialists who can connect with you online.</p><p>If you don't want to talk to a therapist, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/top-iphone-android-apps" target="_blank">smartphone apps for depression</a> may provide a complementary option for addressing your cabin fever symptoms.</p>
The bottom line<p>Isolation isn't a natural state for many people. We are, for the most part, social animals. We enjoy each other's company. That's what can make staying at home for extended periods of time difficult.</p><p>However, whether you're sheltering at home to avoid dangerous weather conditions or heeding the guidelines to help minimize the spread of a disease, staying at home is often an important thing we must do for ourselves and our communities.</p><p>If and when it's necessary, finding ways to engage your brain and occupy your time may help bat back cabin fever and the feelings of isolation and restlessness that often accompany it.</p>
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