A major move is underway to regulate the use of toxic metals in children’s products which can cause abdominal pain and lung disease at high concentrations. On January 11, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Inez Tenenbaum urged regulators at the APEC Toy Safety Initiative/Dialogue in Hong Kong to keep “hazardous or toxic levels of heavy metals” out of “toys and children’s products.” According to Tenenbaum, heavy metals like cadmium “are going to attract attention in the United States for consumer adovates, the media and parents.” She warned that voluntary efforts by manufacturers and importers would not be enough. Tenenbaum’s statement came just a day after The Associated Press issued an investigative report detailing alarming levels of cadmium in children’s products.
According to the report, the Associated Press tested a number of childrens’ products such as jewelry and found that cadmium was present at significantly elevated concentrations. Of 103 products tested, 12 had cadmimum levels at 10% or more of the product’s total weight, one at 91% and some at over 80%.
In response, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. informed the Associated Press that it would pull from store shelves many items suspected of containing cadmium. Many of those products were jewelry imported from China, a region that has long sought to get around U.S. bans on lead in childrens’ products. Cadmium is not currently regulated even though the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) lists cadmium at 7 on its CERCLA Priority List of Hazardous Substances, which ranks toxic substances on the basis of frequency, toxicity, and potential for human exposure from data gathered at superfund sites.