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Toxic-jewelry ban squeaks through Assembly

August 20, 2010 | 10:02 am

Cadmium_Jewelry_JPE_691388bCalifornia lawmakers took steps Thursday to ban jewelry that contains detectable levels of cadmium from being manufactured, shipped or sold in the state.

The Assembly approved SB 929 on a 41-15 vote, the bare majority needed. The legislation was sent back to the state Senate for expected final approval of Assembly amendments. Under the bill, jewelry containing more than 300 parts per million of cadmium could not be made or sold in California beginning in 2012.

Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), the bill's author, credited a January investigation by the Associated Press that found manufacturers in Asia were substituting the toxic metal because the U.S. had banned the use of lead in jewelry. "Cadmium is a known cancer-causing agent, and there is no reason for our most vulnerable citizens, our children, to be exposed to this highly toxic metal," Pavley said in a statement.

Cadmium is a naturally occurring metal that, if ingested, can weaken bones and kidneys. Children can be exposed if they bite and/or suck on products containing it. The AP investigation found that some jewelry was as much as 91% cadmium by weight and that high levels of the metal could leach out.

Since then, necklaces, bracelets and earrings sold by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and the teen-oriented stores Justice and Limited Too have been recalled. McDonald's restaurants also recalled about 12 million Shrek-themed drinking glasses. Other U.S. companies have responded by announcing reviews of their own testing standards.

Pavley's office said that at least four other states -- Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota and Washington -- have banned cadmium at varying levels.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Small pieces of children's jewelry purchased at various Wal-Marts across the country earlier this year. Testing by Ashland University chemistry professor Jeff Weidenhamer showed that the jewelry contains cadmium. Credit: Phil Long / Associated Press