Cadmium Hazards

What is cadmium? Why is cadmium so harmful? What is the current regulation around cadmium? How is my business affected by this? With the recent cadmium scare to consumers, resulting in items being pulled from the shelves, these may be a few questions you have churning in your mind. As a lab that is equipped to test Consumer Goods, Toys, and Childcare Articles, which includes cadmium testing, we’d like shed some light on this particular topic.

In our prior newsletter, we touched upon toxic chemicals, highlighting the risks of cadmium. We would like to dedicate this newsletter to the other four items of primary concern as stated in the Legislative Update: Choking Hazards, Magnets, Sharp Points, and Strangulation Hazards.

As a CPSC accredited full service testing lab, we provide our clients with certified compliance in accordance with ASTM and CPSC regulations. We have the capability to assist our customers with testing their items to the applicable toy safety standards. In speaking with our customers, we find that additional assistance with regards to physical and mechanical hazards is needed, and we can provide the necessary guidance to ensure that your products are safe for your customers. The current details and requirements for the CPSC focus area are as follows:

What is Cadmium?

Cadmium is a soft, malleable, ductile, and toxic, bluish-white metal or grey white powder. [1] It is a heavy metal similar to lead, and both are in the group of post-transition or “poor” metals. As a result of the ban on lead, the drop in demand for Ni-Cd batteries, and the slumping market price; some manufacturers have switched to using cadmium. CPSC Commission Chairman Inez Tenebaum stated, in her speech to the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation’s Toy Safety Initiative, “I would highly encourage all of you to ensure that toy manufacturers and children’s product manufacturers in your country are not substituting cadmium, antimony, and barium in place of lead.” [2] The CPSC staff is investigating and politicians are posed to pen legislation that would regulate other toxic metals, besides lead. The real risk is that cadmium is even more toxic than lead and should not be used as a substitute

Why is Cadmium so harmful?

Occupational Safety and Health Administration states that cadmium “is an extremely toxic metal” and overexposure “may occur even in situations where trace quantities of cadmium are found.”[3] Cadmium and cadmium compounds are known to be human carcinogens based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans.[4] The NIOSH revised IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health) for cadmium compounds is 9 mg Cd/m3 which was the original IDLH for cadmium fume.[5] “Due to the fact that Cadmium has no constructive purpose in the body”, it is “extremely toxic even in low concentrations” states Bruce A. Fowler, a cadmium specialist and toxicologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “There’s nothing positive that you can say about this metal. It’s a poison.” [6] On the agency’s priority list of 275 most hazardous substances in the environment, cadmium ranks No. 7. [7] Cadmium becomes especially harmful when the item is “mouthed”, sucked, or chewed on. At that point, the metal can end up in the child’s gastrointestinal system resulting in neurological problems, renal disorders, weakening bones leading to sudden fractures, and cancer. Cadmium should only be utilized for approved materials, and children’s toys and products are not one.

What is the current regulation around Cadmium?

Cadmium is regulated in painted toys but not in jewelry. The current soluble limit for cadmium in ASTM F963-07 soluble metals testing is 75 ppm; this is the amount that can migrate from a toy to a child. Soluble compounds of cadmium are highly toxic, but strong emetic action minimizes the risk of fatal poisoning. “The CPSC staff suggests that chronic ingestion of cadmium not exceed 9.2 microgram/day for a 1 year old, 13.5 microgram /day for a 3 year old, and 20.2 microgram /day for a 6 year old per day from consumer products. In CPSC’s experience, products containing less than 100 ppm cadmium do not release appreciable amounts of dislodgeable or extractable metals, and would not be a health hazard as a result of reasonably foreseeable consumer handling or use.” [8]

Cadmium is also regulated under CONEG and toxic in packaging regulations. CONEG states that total concentration of the heavy metals lead, cadmium, mercury, and hexavalent chromium should not exceed 100 ppm. Additional regulations may apply and the requirements can vary by state, so be sure to check with current legislation.

For example, the Connecticut Attorney General is currently investigating cadmium content in some products, particularly costume jewelry. In addition, cadmium is listed on the California’s Proposition 65, which means if an item is found to contain cadmium, and is being sold and distributed in California; it must have a warning label on it.

How is my business affected by this?

This is all dependent upon what you are producing and your manufacturing process. The items in question include metal parts; such as hair clips, jewelry, die cast cars, metal toys, ceramic glazes, baked enamels, and fluorescent paints. Other items such as plastics/PVC can also be of particular concern, at times cadmium and lead compounds may be added as stabilizers. Also, bear in mind that most of the products containing cadmium were manufactured in China. Therefore, if you do have items coming out of China, you should investigate the manufacturing process and verify they are not using any banned substances.

To ensure dangerous metals are not present in your items, it is important to have a “reasonable testing program” in place, which may include testing for all heavy metals, such as cadmium. If you are in doubt, it may be best to have your item tested to remove any risk and provide assurance that your item is not putting a child at risk.

Hopefully you have found the above information helpful. As a CPSC accredited lab partner, we hope to be a part of your “reasonable testing program” to ensure full compliance and safety.

For more information concerning cadmium, please visit to view Inez Tenenbaum’s statement.