Tracey Woodruff(right), an associate professor at University of California San Francisco and director of the UCSF Program On Reproductive Health and the Environment speaks at a press conference with Congresswoman Jackie Speier (left) who announced legislation to prohibit the use of cadmium in jewelry marketed to children at Serramonte Center in Daly City, Calif., Friday, Jan. 15, 2010. Cadmium, a carcinogen, has been shown to cause developmental problems in small children. (John Green/Staff)
By Sean Maher, ©San Mateo County Times
DALY CITY - Three dangerous metals often found in cheap children's jewelry could be banned from such products if a bill proposed by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, becomes law.
Speier praised The Associated Press on Friday for an investigation released last week that found large amounts of cadmium, a known carcinogen and a relatively cheap heavy metal toy-makers turned to when lead was outlawed in children's products, in 12 of 103 tested trinkets and toys.
Cadmium can do several kinds of serious damage once absorbed and often it doesn't leave a child's body until well into his or her adulthood, according to Tracey J. Woodruff, director of the UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment.
"It's been shown to affect kidney and bone development," Woodruff said. "You can see it lead to osteoporosis, loss of bone and decreased bone strength."
"The big concern is eating it," she added. "Small children and babies, of course, will put all kinds of things in their mouths and sometimes swallow them. But children of many ages will lick or chew jewelry as well. Teenage girls will sometimes chew jewelry, too."
Speier added, "These chemicals are widely known to be dangerous. There is absolutely no excuse for toy-makers anywhere in the world to be using them in products for children."
The biggest offender, Speier said, is China, where three-quarters of the world's cadmium is mined.
The soonest the bill could pass both houses of Congress and be signed into law by President Barack Obama would likely be the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011, Speier said.
If passed, the bill would also require third-party testing for new products before they would be allowed on U.S. retail shelves and a ban on all products with unsafe levels of cadmium as well as similarly dangerous metals barium and antimony.
The Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health offers free testing for parents concerned that a toy or trinket they've bought for their child may contain dangerous metals, Executive Director Michael Green said.
For more information on Speier's proposed bill, go to her web site at www.speier.house.gov.
To learn more about CEH's free testing for toxic materials in children's products, go to www.ceh.org.