Research on cadmium contamination of children’s jewelry

Testing of inexpensive jewelry items for cadmium content:

Testing was carried out for the Associated Press by Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer, Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and two Ashland University toxicology majors working under his supervision:  Daphne Guinn and Janna Pearson.

A total of 103 jewelry items were purchased at retail stores in Ohio, Texas, California and New York.  The items were screened for the presence of high levels of cadmium using a technique called X-ray fluorescence.  A total of 14 items contained more than 10% cadmium based on these tests.

Additional testing was done on several of the high-cadmium jewelry items to determine the amounts of cadmium that might leach from the items if swallowed, and to determine the total cadmium content of items based on digestion of the metal in acid.  The maximum cadmium content found was 91.0%, or 910,000, in a Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer charm purchase at a dollar store in New York by Judy Braiman of the Empire State Consumer Group of Rochester, NY.  Charms on another bracelet contained 89 and 91% cadmium, and a necklace pendant contained 79% cadmium.  All of these pieces released dangerously high amounts of cadmium in leaching tests.

Cadmium is a toxic metal that is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the US Environmental Protection Agency.  The primary hazard of chronic cadmium exposure is kidney damage, however recent research also links cadmium exposure to learning disabilities and loss of IQ in young children.  The World Health Organization estimates the tolerable weekly intake for cadmium to be 7 micrograms per kg body weight per week.  There are currently no standards for the cadmium content of jewelry items intended for children.

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AU students Daphne Guinn, left, and Janna Pearson with Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer conducting XRF screening of jewelry items for cadmium.  (Click on photo for high resolution image)


For more information, see the Associated Press stories:



In the Cleveland Plain Dealer:                                             In the Washington Post:                                        The Washington Post                         


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