Ashland University Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Dr. Jeffrey Weidenhamer has been featured in the national media for his testing of inexpensive jewelry items for lead and cadmium content. His research, which included work done by Ashland University students under his supervision, has been featured in newspapers and national television news shows across the country and has led to a number of recalls by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
In January, the Associated Press ran a news story on the testing of inexpensive jewelry items for cadmium content by Ashland University Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Dr. Jeffrey Weidenhamer. Following this news story, Dr. Weidenhamer conducted numerous media interviews and was featured in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, New York Times and Boston Globe and was interviewed for both ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS’s The Early Show.
The testing and subsequent news articles led the Consumer Products Safety Commission to launch an investigation into the high levels of cadmium in kids' jewelry. Also, according to news reports from various sources, Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, removed products containing cadmium from its shelves following these news reports.
A total of 103 children’s jewelry items were purchased at retail stores in Ohio, Texas, California and New York. The items were screened by Dr. Weidenhamer and two Ashland University toxicology students working under his supervision for the presence of high levels of cadmium using a technique called X-ray fluorescence. A total of 14 items contained more than 10 percent cadmium based on these tests.
Additional testing was done on several of the high-cadmium jewelry items to determine the amounts of cadmium that might leach from the items if swallowed, and to determine the total cadmium content of items based on digestion of the metal in acid.
The maximum cadmium content found was 91.0 percent, or 910,000, in a Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer charm purchased at a dollar store in New York by Judy Braiman of the Empire State Consumer Group of Rochester, N.Y. Charms on another bracelet contained 89 percent and 91 percent cadmium, and a necklace pendant contained 79 percent cadmium. All of these pieces released dangerously high amounts of cadmium in leaching tests.
Cadmium is a toxic metal that is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The primary hazard of chronic cadmium exposure is kidney damage, however recent research also links cadmium exposure to learning disabilities and loss of IQ in young children. On Oct. 19, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a report on cadmium in jewelry estimating that the maximum safe intake of cadmium is 0.1 micrograms per kg body weight per day. There are currently no standards for the cadmium content of jewelry items intended for children, but the CPSC has urged that industry develop standards that prevent harm to children.
Dr. Weidenhamer has been interviewed and featured in the news media many times since the initial Associated Press article was released. These items include: