CPSC recommends new increased cadmium level guidelines

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Following the 2008 federal CPSIA law restricting lead content in children s toys, the Associated Press found in a January investigation that Chinese jewelry manufacturers were supplanting lead with cadmium. Subsequently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission initiated its first of many recalls of cadmium jewelry due to safety concerns associated with the metal. One immediate effect of the CPSC s warning was that McDonald s voluntarily pulled 12 million Shrek glasses last spring after the comission advised parents of the possible toxicity of cadmium.

But now the CPSC is backtracking, suggesting that the acceptable daily intake of cadmium is 0.1 micrograms (one ten-millionth of a gram, or one 100-thousandth of a salt grain) per day for every kilogram of a child s body weight, which is triple the previous maximum safe level of 0.03 micrograms per kilogram per day. Based on the new voluntary guidelines issued on Tuesday, it turns out that those McDonald s Shrek glasses didn t have unsafe levels of cadmium after all. Oops.

Why all the recent concern over cadmium? Well, according to the AP, exposure to cadmium is particularly concerning for children because their growing bodies quickly absorb what they ingest, and several studies indicate that kids are more likely to possess learning disabilities or lower IQs with increased exposure to cadmium.

When the issue of cadmium toxicity arose a few weeks ago, your humble scribe researched the evidence base and discovered that the actual data on human exposure and cadmium effects was scanty, at best. One wonders what these assertions about cadmium s effects are actually based on.

If these adverse health effects associated with cadmium are indeed true, then why would the CPSC raise the levels of safe cadmium exposure, wonders ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross. Raising the level of cadmium exposure is countering a trend we ve seen in this country of decreasing exposure limits over the past two years.

More importantly, how does the CPSC garner the authority to establish guidelines such as these? When you decide to raise the level of something, that means you did research on the subject, but as far as I am aware, the CPSC does not conduct their own scientific studies nor do they have their own research labs. They re supposed to enforce regulations and laws and conduct product recalls of potentially dangerous products. I just wonder how they derived the new guidelines, queries Dr. Ross.

It sounds like cadmium is the new lead, voices ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan.

UPDATE 10/21/2010: To clarify the second-to-last paragraph, ACSH is reliably informed that the CPSC does conduct research and has a fully-staffed research laboratory.