Cancer-Causing Cadmium Found in Cheap Fashion Accessories and Jewelries

Cadmium, a known carcinogen, has been found in some costume accessories and jewelries being sold at bead and trinket shops in Quiapo, Manila.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the discovery after analyzing 50 samples of bracelets, brooches, earrings, hair clips, necklaces and fashion accessories bought for P15 to P80 each from seven specialty stores along Evangelista and Villalobos Streets.

“We were shocked to find high levels of cadmium in jewelries and ornaments that are quite popular among girls and women,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The excessive amounts of cadmium detected in over half of the samples would make them illegal to sell in Europe,” she declared.

“The government should severely restrict cadmium in accessories and jewelries that may get into children’s hands, and manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers should not market cadmium-laden products to which children might be exposed,” she pointed out.

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence device, the group detected cadmium up to 165,300 parts per million in 26 out of 50 samples, far above the European Union’s limit of 100 ppm for cadmium content in jewelry.

Under the EU Regulation 494/2011, cadmium in jewelry is restricted to 0.01 % (or 100 ppm) by weight of the metal in metal beads and other metal components for jewelry making,  metal parts of jewelry and imitation jewelry articles and hair accessories, including bracelets, necklaces and rings, piercing jewelry, wrist-watches and wrist-wear, brooches and cufflinks.

Cadmium may be present in jewelry as part of metal alloys, as solder, or as pigment or stabilizer in non-metal components such as ceramics, plastics or paint coatings.

Cadmium is harmful when inhaled, ingested or absorbed by the skin.

Based on the analysis conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition, the following 16 samples showed very high concentrations of cadmium:

1. An Angry Birds trinket, 165,300 ppm
2. A Bunny trinket, 162,300 ppm
3. A peacock brooch, 160,000 ppm
4. An apple trinket, 157,900 ppm
5. A cartoon character trinket, 157,200 ppm
6. A strawberry trinket, 157,100 ppm
7. A silver bracelet with red accent, 153,600
8. A Poka trinket, 153,000 ppm
9. A  silver bracelet with flower, leaf and elephant danglers, 152,900 ppm
10. A guitar trinket, 129,400 ppm
11. A black Hello Kitty earrings, 80,000 ppm
12. A red lip-shaped ornament with stones, 96,300 ppm.
13. A green color slipper pendant with stones, 63,600 ppm
14. A turquoise color Hello Kitty earrings, 29,300 ppm
15.  A five-piece orange bangles, 27,300 ppm
16.  A hair clip with bird design and red stones, 16,900 ppm

Lucero observed that the "Hong Mei" fashion accessories, which had the highest levels of cadmium among the samples, provided the following warning information: “This is not a toy; please take it away from children’s hands.”

She noted however that “this warning label is inadequate as it does not explicitly disclose the product’s cadmium content, which, in addition to choking risk, is the other major hazard why it should not be touched by kids.” 

Cadmium and cadmium compounds are classified as “carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which means that “there is sufficient evidence for their carcinogenicity in humans."

Cadmium is also recognized as a reproductive and developmental toxin associated with reduced birth weight, premature birth, stillbirth, spontaneous abortion and birth defects in humans, as well with behavioral and learning disabilities.

Along with arsenic, asbestos, benzene, dioxins, lead, mercury, highly hazardous pesticides and other substances, cadmium is considered by the World Health Organization as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”

Cadmium and its compounds also belong to the Philippine Priority Chemicals List or substances determined by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau to potentially pose unreasonable risk to public health, workplace, and the environment.”