Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Evaluating the threat from cadmium in jewelry

Jennifer Miller is next in our series of profiles on summer undergraduate research students. She is working with Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer on a project funded by a grant from the Dr. Scholl Foundation.

Young girls love to wear jewelry. Bejeweled hearts, butterflies, angels, peace signs, ladybugs and ballerinas may look appealing, but if made of the toxic metal cadmium, they can be deadly. We used a method called X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy to screen these jewelry items for cadmium levels; items with unusually high concentrations are marked for further analysis. Since the vast majority of these jewelry pieces appeal to children, further testing is preformed to model feasible contact a child may have with the cadmium-based charms. These tests simulate the exposure that a child might get by mouthing or swallowing a charm, along with a total cadmium analysis of each piece. Exposure to cadmium is cause for concern because cadmium bio-accumulates, meaning that the body cannot cleanse itself of this toxin. Over time cadmium builds up and can cause adverse health effects including kidney failure, cancer and osteoporosis. Exposure to high cadmium jewelry items adds to the total cadmium accumulated in day to day life, mainly from eating food as cadmium is present in the soil and is taken up by plants. Our research has contributed to three recalls of jewelry items for cadmium contamination by the Consumer Products Safety Commission, which is currently working on a proposal for the regulation of cadmium in children’s jewelry.

- Jennifer Miller

1 comment:

  1. I am a middle school teacher in NC and came across your site while researching some information about the periodic table for my chemistry class this year. I just wanted to thank you for the great information.

    We would love it if you could write a few articles for us, but I understand if your busy so a link to some of the current articles would be very helpful as well to help us spread trusted resources to other teachers. I have included a link to our page about cadmium and its toxic effects in case you would like to help us out by linking to it, tweeting it, or adding it to your Facebook profile.


    Thanks and keep the great resources coming

    Bre Matthews