Cadmium is the new lead: jewelry removed from Target, Saks, Gap and others

The Washington Post reports more than a dozen major retailers including Target, Saks and Gap, are voluntarily halting sales of jewelry that contain more than trace levels of cadmium.

The changes stem from a Center for Environmental Health lawsuit against retailers in California in 2010 and an investigation by The Associated Press of jewelry aimed at children and teenage girls at discount chain Wal-Mart.

The Washington Post reports:

While high-profile recalls of lead-laden toys and jewelry have captured the national spotlight in recent years, cadmium is emerging as the next big threat along the periodic table. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that cadmium can damage the bones and multiple organs. The government has identified it as a known carcinogen that stays in the body for years and accumulates. In jewelry, it’s often used because it’s a cheap, soft metal that melts easily at low temperatures.

The New Times reports at the moment there is no federal standard that limits cadmium in jewelry:

Following the outcome of a legal settlement in California, retailers are voluntarily recalling jewelry across the country, even though the standard is higher than that set out by lawmakers in other parts of the United States.

CBS reported in 2010 the AP investigation found the metal in the entire line of bracelets and necklaces of Hannah Montana aka Miley Cyrus (pictured), a popular teen singer, and that by weight the inexpensive jewelry items (selling for less than $10) at Wal-Mart and other chains contained as much as 91% cadmium:

Representatives of the jewelry industry have argued that the presence of cadmium,, even at high levels, is not by itself proof that an item is dangerous. The important thing, they say, is how much can escape if the item is sucked, bitten or swallowed.

Cadmium, a bluish-white metal, is mined as a byproduct of zinc production. Apart from jewelry, cadmium is mainly used in rechargeable batteries, paint (red, yellow and orange), for electroplating and in the past in televisions.

Image of Cyrus by Chris H. Galbraith /