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January 13, 2010

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Safety alert over metal in child goods

CHINA'S product safety agency will look into findings that dangerous levels of cadmium are being used in exports of children's jewelry, a Chinese official said yesterday.

Attending a toy-safety conference in Hong Kong, the official said that his agency only just learned of findings in an Associated Press investigation published on Sunday and would examine the findings on cadmium contamination.

"We just heard about this, and we will investigate," said Wang Xin, a director general for the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

On Monday, retailer Walmart pulled products cited in the AP report from its United States stores.

Lab tests conducted for the AP on 103 pieces of low-priced children's jewelry on sale in the US found 12 items with raised levels of cadmium, which can hinder brain development in young children, according to research, and is known to be carcinogenic.

Twelve items had cadmium levels of at least 10 percent by weight. One piece had a startling 91 percent, and others contained more than 80 percent. The US government has no restrictions on cadmium in jewelry.

A soft, whitish metal that occurs naturally in soil, it is best known in rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries, but is also used in pigments, electroplating and plastic.

In taped remarks delivered at the toy-safety conference in Hong Kong, the chairwoman of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission urged other countries to ensure that manufacturers do not substitute cadmium, antimony or barium in place of lead in children's products.

"All of us should be committed to keeping hazardous or toxic levels of heavy metals out of toys and children's products," Inez Tenenbaum said.

The results came in tests of bracelet charms sold at Walmart stores, at the jewelry chain Claire's and at a Dollar N More store.

High amounts of cadmium were also detected in "The Princess and The Frog" movie-themed pendants.

US-based trade groups, as well as distributors and sellers of the jewelry containing cadmium, said their products meet safety standards.


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