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Bill could change levels of cadmium allowed in children’s jewlery

by caprecord

Children’s jewelry sold in Washington would be allowed to contain 7.5 times more cadmium – a carcinogen that causes kidney failure — if lawmakers pass a new bill.

Right now, children’s jewelry cannot contain more than 40 parts per million. Senate Bill 5021 would increase the allowable amount to match the American Society for Testing and Materials standard – 300 parts per million for metal components and 75 parts per million for paint components. It applies to jewelry expressly marketed to children ages 12 and younger.

Brent Cleaveland, executive director of the Fashion, Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association, told the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications committee products would still be safe and would provide a “harmonized” standard for the industry.

Cadmium levels are already lower than the current limit, he said. Cleaveland doesn’t expect raising the limit to increase cadmium levels in jewelry. “The industry has been very effective in eliminating cadmium from the market,” he said.  The bill will save businesses the cost and confusion of separate testing standards and still maintain safety, he says.

Still, some state health officials worry about increasing levels of a toxic metal known to cause kidney and liver damage.

“We have a difficult time eliminating it from our bodies,” Barbara Morrissey, a toxicologist with the state Department of Health, said. “Once it’s absorbed, (cadmium) has an estimated half-life in the kidney of one to four decades.”

Morrissey says kids’ exposure to cadmium in Washington state is already about three times higher than the national average, according to a department study. She worries about ingestion and says cadmium levels may rise after jewelry wears down.

“Cadmium does come out of the jewelry,” she said. “Its toxicity, its persistence in the body and limited evidence we have that it might be higher in kids already, we think these are good reasons to minimize cadmium.”

Sen. John McCoy, Tulalip Democrat and prime sponsor of the bill, said it’s a work-in-progress. “As we often do in the Legislature, we’ll bring bills forward knowing they probably need some work,” he told the committee. “This bill is probably going to need some work.

Cleaveland says he will meet with the Department of Ecology on Thursday afternoon to continue discussing the bill.