LOS ANGELES — The country's top product safety regulator warned parents and caretakers Wednesday to take cheap metal jewelry away from children out of concern they could be exposed to toxic heavy metals such as lead and cadmium.
Writing in a blog posted Wednesday evening, the chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission noted that children who chew, suck on or swallow a bracelet charm or necklace may be endangering their health.
"I have a message for parents, grandparents and caregivers: Do not allow young children to be given or to play with cheap metal jewelry, especially when they are unsupervised," wrote Inez Tenenbaum, the chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
"We have proof that lead in children's jewelry is dangerous and was pervasive in the marketplace. To prevent young children from possibly being exposed to lead, cadmium or any other hazardous heavy metal, take the jewelry away."
In making the recommendation, Tenenbaum cited an investigation by The Associated Press that reported high cadmium levels in items including bracelet charms from Wal-Mart and Claire's stores. Lab tests conducted for the AP on 103 pieces of low-priced children's jewelry, nearly all exported from China, found 12 items with cadmium content above 10 percent of the total weight.
Several of those shed very high amounts of the metal when analyzed for how much of the toxin a child might be exposed to after swallowing the item.
Like lead, cadmium can hinder brain development in young children, according to recent research. It also causes cancer.
Tenenbaum said the agency is "actively investigating the jewelry cited in the recent AP story." She said the inquiry "is squarely focused on ensuring the safety of children."
Reaction to AP's investigation has been swift and sweeping.
Within hours of the release of the original story Sunday, the CPSC said it would investigate the highlighted items, among them charms that contained between 84 percent and 91 percent cadmium. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Claire's, an international accessories and jewelry chain with nearly 3,000 stores in North America and Europe, have since pulled items cited in the report from shelves.