Bioavailability of Cadmium and Other Metals in Jewelry

Posted on March 6, 2011

There is an interesting new study in Environmental Health Perspectives speaking about cadmium in jewelry.  It is now also making the rounds of the news services such as CBC under the title: “Cadmium in kids jewelry poses risk“.  Below is a summary of the study and its findings indicate to take care with dealing with metal items, nothing new but always good to be reminded of it for various reasons.

BACKGROUND: High cadmium (Cd) concentrations have recently been found in some inexpensive jewelry. In response, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued five recalls of children’s jewelry products for Cd contamination. However, there is no formal standard for Cd in jewelry and few data exist regarding potential exposures.

OBJECTIVES: We evaluated the bioavailability of Cd in 86 components of 57 jewelry items found to contain high levels of Cd (>10,000 ppm) by X-ray fluorescence (XRF), using extractions which simulate mouthing or swallowing of jewelry items.

METHODS: Jewelry was screened for Cd content by XRF. Bioavailability was measured in two ways. Items were placed in saline solution at 37oC for six hr to simulate exposures from mouthing of jewelry items. Items were placed in dilute HCl at 37°C for 6-96 hr, simulating the worst case scenario of a child swallowing a jewelry item. Damaged pieces of selected samples were also extracted by both methods to determine the effect of breaching the outer plating on bioavailability. Total Cd content of all items was determined by atomic absorption (AA).

RESULTS: The six hr saline extraction yielded as much as 2200 µg Cd, and 24 hr dilute HCl extraction yielded a maximum of more than 20,000 µg Cd. Leaching of Cd in dilute HCl increased linearly over 6-96 hr, indicating potential for increasing harm the longer an item remains in the stomach. Damage to jewelry by breaching the outer plating generally but not always increased Cd release. Bioavailability did not correlate directly with Cd content.

CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate the potential for dangerous Cd exposures to children who wear, mouth, or accidentally swallow high-Cd jewelry items.

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