Cadmium In The Trash

Parents across America are throwing out their kids’ inexpensive costume jewelry because they fear it might contain cadmium. When the Consumer Product Safety Commission set lower limits on the amount of lead allowed in U.S. toys, some Chinese manufacturers apparently began using cadmium instead. Cadmium is cheap, but it’s also toxic. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, cadmium is “a soft, blue-white malleable, lustrous metal or a grayish-white powder that is insoluble in water and reacts readily with dilute nitric acid.” Cadmium metal is primarily used because of its anticorrosive properties. It is found in alkaline batteries, pigments, metal coatings, plastics, and now some children’s toys imported from China. Cadmium is considered a known human carcinogen by the Department of Health & Human Services. Long-term exposure to the metal can lead to kidney disease, lung damage, and fragile bones, depending on the route of exposure. The question is whether a child is likely to be exposed to cadmium in toys. Wearing a necklace or bracelet is unlikely to cause harm, but sucking on a necklace, or swallowing a piece of it, would certainly be a different story. In October, bright orange pumpkin erasers with extremely high levels (1800 ppm) of cadmium were in the news. I happened to have a few of them around my house from birthday party goody bags my kids brought home. Out of concern that my kids would chew on them, I threw the erasers out in the trash. Someone ought to calculate how much cadmium is likely to enter landfills because of the recent cadmium jewelry scare, and what impact that could have on ground and surface waters.

Author: Britt Erickson

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