On September 27, 2010, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law that restricts cadmium levels in children’s jewelry. Effective January 1, 2012, it will be illegal to sell jewelry for children six years old and younger that contains more than 0.03 percent (300 ppm) of cadmium.

The federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 restricted the amount of lead in children’s products, but high levels of cadmium have been detected in children’s jewelry purchased from U.S. retailers. Most of these items were imported from overseas manufacturers that began adding cadmium to their products as a substitute for lead.

Cadmium is often used in paint pigments, electroplating and plastics. Cadmium is of concern because, according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, it can harm kidneys and bones and cause cancer. California has identified it as a carcinogen and a reproductive toxicant under Proposition 65.

California joins several other states in regulating cadmium in children’s jewelry. California’s action is even more significant, however, because the size and influence of the California market effectively makes this a national limit. Therefore, it is recommended that companies that manufacture or sell children’s jewelry begin establishing procedures to ensure that all of their products will comply with this new law, regardless of where they will be sold. In practice, it may be difficult to manage the logistics of products that meet different cadmium standards to ensure that they are distributed in the proper states. Further, a company may risk damaging its reputation with its customers if it sold in a state products that contained cadmium levels higher than levels deemed safe by other states.

In addition, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is considering a petition to issue regulations restricting cadmium in children’s products. Be advised, however, that the CPSC is considering restricting cadmium in all children’s products, not just jewelry, and that it’s likely that any regulations would apply to products intended for use by children up to the age of 12 as its lead regulations do. Further, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also indicated that it will be proposing a rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act to require the submission of health and safety studies on cadmium in children’s products.