Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Minnesota state regulators on Wednesday reported finding three children's jewelry products containing toxic levels of cadmium.
The jewelry - a butterfly necklace, ladybug charm necklace and penguin charm necklace - were among 89 toys purchased online and in stores by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as part of a joint effort to enforce the state's Toxic Toys Act.
The children's jewelry products were purchased from independent retailers on Amazon.com. Laboratory testing identified three products with extremely high levels of cadmium, a toxic metal associated with delayed brain development, kidney and bone damage, and cancer.
Babies and young children are at particular risk because they often bite, chew or suck on toys and other objects.
The state Department of Health determined that the toxic metal levels in the jewelry represented a hazard to children, and the state Commerce Department notified the retailers that the products posed a toxic hazard to children and violated Minnesota law.
The companies voluntarily issued recalls and provided refunds to Minnesota consumers. Amazon removed the online product listings and cooperated with the investigation. The sellers were identified as LBS International (also known as 1st Shop) and NYBK Group. The ongoing investigation "is focused on identifying the manufacturers and other retailers that may be selling the products," the PCA said.
PCA officials say some companies now use cadmium as a low-cost substitute for lead, which is highly restricted or banned in children's products.
The state agencies offered shopping advice to avoid toxic toys:
• Don't rely on appearances. There is no way to know if a product contains high levels of cadmium, lead or other toxic metals just by looking at it.
• Buy age-appropriate products. If you have small children, don't purchase or allow access to jewelry unless specifically labeled for children 6 years and younger. General/adult-use items may not have been tested as safe for children.
• Look for product information. U.S.-made jewelry is generally safer. Avoid buying jewelry when there is no information about where it was made. Look for toxic-free certification. In general, you can examine jewelry items, labels and tags more closely in person at a store.
• Don't allow your child to put jewelry in their mouth. Toxic exposure can come from biting, chewing or sucking on a piece of jewelry - or, even worse, swallowing it. If your child often puts items in their mouth, keep jewelry and other small objects well out of reach.
• If your child swallows a piece of jewelry, seek urgent medical attention.
The Minnesota Department of Health says cadmium is a naturally occurring metal used in many products such as metal plating, batteries, stabilizers in plastics, and phosphate fertilizers.
If ingested, large amounts of cadmium may cause acute cadmium poisoning with symptoms including nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches and, in rare circumstances, death. Breathing high levels of cadmium can severely damage the lungs and can cause death.