What Does Cadmium Jewelry Look Like? If you are keen on jewelry and what goes on (and into) your body, you’ve read and heard several reports on cadmium in jewelry.
Most of these cadmium-related articles making headlines indicate that the cadmium is an unsafe heavy metal that shouldn’t be in jewelry and pretty much everything else around your body. But do you know what cadmium is exactly and its effects on the body? Do you understand why you need to avoid jewelry with cadmium?
Well, in this article, we are taking a look at everything you need to know about cadmium, what it looks like, and why you should avoid cadmium jewelry.
What Is Cadmium Jewelry? What Does Cadmium Jewelry Look Like?
When it comes to jewelry, the saying “all that glitters is not gold” couldn’t be any more accurate. More than anything, it means that you should be careful about the jewelry you are buying and the ingredients used to make that ring, necklace, or bracelet.
Cadmium is a heavy metal and a known carcinogen, which means that cadmium is one of the most toxic heavy metals by Mother Nature.
In a report released recently by the Center of Environmental Health or CEH in California, cadmium is present in several jewelry items tested by CEH. The jewelry pieces were from leading stores, including Nordstrom Rack, Walgreens, and Ross. From the tests, it was found out that the tested items from these stores contained substantial levels of cadmium ranging, with 40 to 100% of the tested items testing positive for cadmium.
What does it look like? Well, cadmium is easily recognizable when it’s on its own, either by its physical properties/ appearance or through chemical reactions. It is a lustrous, ductile, extremely malleable, silver-white metal. Cadmium’s surface features a bluish tinge. This metal is soft enough for you to cut through it, and it tarnishes. Cadmium dissolves in acids in the same way as zinc, but the difference between these two metals is that the products of the reaction between cadmium and acid is more complex.
Is Cadmium Allowed in Jewelry? And why?
Despite being known as one of the most toxic heavy metals around, a metal that could cause detrimental health effects on the persons who wear the jewelry, cadmium is allowed in jewelry, surprisingly.
There are no restrictions put in place on the maximum amount of cadmium that’s acceptable in jewelry for adults in the US. The state of California has, on the other hand, placed limitations on the amount of cadmium that can be incorporated into jewelry for children.
The limit currently stands at 0.03%. This decision passed in California was made after it was found that a high level of cadmium was present in the jewelry sold to pre-teens.
Since children are more likely to be exposed to cadmium from the cheap jewelry they wear, not to mention the risk of these kids swallowing or even chewing on these metal pieces, this decision was definitely a good one.
The situation is nowhere close to perfect, though, and a lot more needs to be done.
The US should, perhaps, borrow a leaf from Europe where the European Commission banned the use of cadmium in all jewelry sold all over Europe. This decision was made in 2011, and almost a decade later, not much has been done in the US.
Why is Cadmium Used in Jewelry?
For us to understand why a known toxic metal is still used in jewelry in the US and other parts of the world, it would be a good idea for us to start by looking at the primary reason why Cadmium is used in jewelry.
Well, the primary reason for the use of cadmium in jewelry is that it was the ideal, cheap replacement for lead. This decision was probably fueled by the increase in restrictions for lead.
Cadmium was the next best thing because it adds mass plus weight to jewelry, while also providing that shiny finish that most people look for in jewelry.
Cadmium’s melting point is also significantly lower than the melting points of metals like zinc, which meant that the use of cadmium would result in significantly low energy requirements for melting the metal into shape.
Is cadmium in jewelry dangerous?
Yes. Cadmium in jewelry is bad news. Inhaling or ingesting cadmium particles has harmful effects on your health, with the biggest problems associated with cadmium toxicity being osteoporosis and kidney damage/ dysfunction, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.
Cadmium is listed on California’s Proposition 65 list, which is the list of metals/ ingredients/ components believed to be toxic and carcinogenic.
Why then is cadmium still used in jewelry? Well, the short, heartbreaking answer – profits. Cadmium is cheap, and it’s also very useful in jewelry making.
Cadmium is used in jewelry primarily because when it’s added to other metals used in jewelry, it increases both the strength and the durability of the jewelry pieces, which means that the cadmium-based jewelry pieces will not break easily, even when exposed to harsh conditions and forces of wear and tear.
And as mentioned above, cadmium is extremely cheap, which means that jewelers will easily choose it over other metals, which costs more.
Health Effects of Cadmium
This known toxic heavy metal/ dangerous carcinogen is also rated as the No.7 item that possesses the most significant threat to human (and animal) health.
This is according to (ATSDR), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which gave Cadmium this ranking based on its threat to human health, based on its potential and frequency for exposure, as well as its toxicity.
You also need to know that cadmium has a half-life of 10-30 years, which means that every cadmium exposure you have will most probably stick around for your lifetime. Unfortunately, cadmium’s burden on your body only increases as you age, which means more damage as you age.
Cadmium has been shown to target the bones and the kidneys, and it also has detrimental effects on your reproductive health.
Keep in mind that exposure to cadmium in any way, either through inhalation (most dangerous) or via the skin (dermal), poses a great risk to your health, especially if you are exposed to cadmium in high concentrations.
The other expected side effects of cadmium include:
- Stomach pains, severe vomiting, and diarrhea
- Bone fractures
- Damage to the immune system
- Damage to your central nervous system
- Reproductive issues, failure, and infertility
- Psychological disorders
- DNA damage
- It could cause cancer.
How do I know if my jewelry has cadmium?
Unfortunately, there is no easy way for you to tell if the jewelry you are buying or own contains cadmium. And just looking at the jewelry will not be enough because jewelers don’t list cadmium as one of the metals incorporated into the jewelry.
However, if you suspect or want to know if you have been exposed to cadmium, you’d have to get a whole blood cadmium test or a urine cadmium test.
The blood test works great for recent exposures, perhaps an exposure within weeks, while the urine test is ideal for potential long-term exposure – cadmium affects the kidneys the most, hence the effectiveness of the urine test.
To be safe, avoid any and all potential forms of exposure to cadmium because this heavy metal will stick around for a long time. Also, ask your local retailer for the metal content of the jewelry for locally-made jewelry to lower your risk of exposure.
Pros and Cons of Cadmium Jewelry
- Low melting point
- Unsafe heavy metal with damaging effects on bones, kidneys, and the rest of the body
- It’s a carcinogen
- It has a long half-life between 10 and 30 years
- Bad on the environment
- Extremely dangerous for children
Cadmium might be making jewelers happy and rich, but it is an unsafe heavy metal with detrimental effects.
You need to try as much as you can to avoid exposure to cadmium. Be proactive and ask the tough questions or start sourcing for jewelry from markets known to have banned cadmium in jewelry.