Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cadmium

Corporations manufacture items in China and then ship them to the United States to sell rather than just make and sell them here for a reason: It's cheaper. They can pay the kind of exploitive wages that would get them thrown in prison here, and they can use whatever cheap shit they want in their products. Sure, the American public finally caught on to lead and now manufacturers are being forced to phase it out, but they were selling their lead-laced shit for years. They had a great, extremely profitable run.

Now they've turned to some shit that's so fucking toxic that we may one day look back fondly on the days when they were poisoing us with something as relatively benign as lead. Say hello to cadmium.



Barred from using lead in children's jewelry because of its toxicity, some Chinese manufacturers have been substituting the more dangerous heavy metal cadmium in sparkling charm bracelets and shiny pendants being sold throughout the United States, an Associated Press investigation shows.

The most contaminated piece analyzed in lab testing performed for the AP contained a startling 91 percent cadmium by weight. The cadmium content of other contaminated trinkets, all purchased at national and regional chains or franchises, tested at 89 percent, 86 percent and 84 percent by weight. The testing also showed that some items easily shed the heavy metal, raising additional concerns about the levels of exposure to children.

Cadmium is a known carcinogen. Like lead, it can hinder brain development in the very young, according to recent research. [...]

Some of the most troubling test results were for bracelet charms sold at Walmart, at the jewelry chain Claire's and at a dollar store. High amounts of cadmium also were detected in "The Princess and The Frog" movie-themed pendants.

"There's nothing positive that you can say about this metal. It's a poison," said Bruce A. Fowler, a cadmium specialist and toxicologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On the CDC's priority list of 275 most hazardous substances in the environment, cadmium ranks No. 7.

Jewelry industry veterans in China say cadmium has been used in domestic products there for years. Zinc, the metal most cited as a replacement for lead in imported jewelry being sold in the United States, is a much safer and nontoxic alternative. But the jewelry tests conducted for AP, along with test findings showing a growing presence of cadmium in other children's products, demonstrate that the safety threat from cadmium is being exported.

A patchwork of federal consumer protection regulations does nothing to keep these nuggets of cadmium from U.S. store shelves. If the products were painted toys, they would face a recall. If they were industrial garbage, they could qualify as hazardous waste. But since there are no cadmium restrictions on jewelry, such items are sold legally.

While the agency in charge of regulating children's products, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, has cracked down on the dangers posed by lead and products known to have killed children, such as cribs, it has never recalled an item for cadmium — even though it has received scattered complaints based on private test results for at least the past two years.

There is no definitive explanation for why children's jewelry manufacturers, virtually all from China in the items tested, are turning to cadmium. But a reasonable double whammy looms: Cadmium prices have plummeted as factories grasp for substitutes now that lead is heavily regulated under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
Nope, no definitive explantion. But do you think that "it's cheaper" reason I mentioned above might have something to do with it?

But it looks like federal regulators have taken notice.
Federal and state watchdogs opened a new front Monday in the campaign to
keep poisons out of Chinese imports, warning Asian manufacturers not to
substitute other toxins for lead in children's jewelry and beginning an inquiry
into cadmium found in the products around the United States.

Regulators reacted swiftly to an Associated Press investigation reporting that some Chinese manufacturers have been using cadmium in place of lead in children's charm bracelets and pendants, sometimes at extraordinarily high levels. Congress clamped down on lead in those products in 2008, but cadmium is even more harmful.
I just hope they plan to do more than warn.

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