The United Steelworkers and the Empire State Consumer Association are seeking the recall of the Chinese-made, cadmium-laden, possibly-fatal "Sassy Chic" bracelet, sold at Dollar Tree stores. And the USW union is, again, seeking the recall of Nancy Nord, the acting chair of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, only this time, based on the CPSC's failure to act in this cadmium case, her recall is, at the very least, to be with a public pillorying.
Cadmium is a rare, highly toxic, cancer-causing, bluish white metal, usually used in batteries, not bracelets. In this case, the Chinese unfortunately used it to make small metal beads for American children's trinkets. These are the kind of tiny balls that kids sometimes eat - like Aqua Dots, you know, the little Chinese-made beads found last week to be coated with the banned date rape drug, which when popped into the mouths of youngsters caused comas and seizures.
The Empire State Consumer Association fears the amount of cadmium it found in the Sassy Chic bracelet might be fatal if the beads are eaten. They're not sure, but let's put it this way: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard for cadmium in drinking water is less than 1 part per million. European law bans electronic products containing more than 100 parts per million of cadmium. The Empire State group found the beads on Sassy Chic contain 227,000 parts per million of cadmium. What if a 25-pound, 2-year-old swallows a couple of those?
Alarmed by that test result, the Empire State group informed the CPSC immediately. First, Dr. Kathleen Burns, a toxicologist and advisor to the group, called Nov. 8 and got nowhere. Then, the Empire group's founder, Judy Braiman, an advisor to the CPSC Product Safety Council from 1975 to 1977, called Nov. 9 and got nowhere.
The CPSC does not test for cadmium, they were told. Send your results and we'll see about it, they were told.
That was a week ago. How many bracelets has Dollar Tree sold since then? How many of the cheap ornaments have broken? How many toddlers have popped a couple of those shinny little metal balls into their mouths?
It's true the CPSC can't test for everything on the periodic table. But when alerted to the presence of a potentially fatal level of a toxic element not-tested-for in a child's bracelet, the CPSC is obligated to act.
So far, CPSC has not recalled the bracelet. It has not alerted the public to the potential danger, although duplicating the test on this bracelet does not take a week. What is the CPSC waiting for, a child suffering an Aqua Dot-like coma?
And while the CPSC can't check for all elements, it does seem odd that a small, New York-based consumer group evaluated toys for cadmium, but the largest, taxpayer-based consumer protection agency in the land does not. Dr. Burns, the toxicologist, recommended that the Empire State group look for cadmium this year after studying the effects of the toxin in other countries. China, the origin of virtually all toys recalled for toxic levels of lead, is believed to have a sixth of all the cadmium deposits in the world and recycles used metal to make many other products. One plus one equals testing for cadmium.
That is something that the CPSC should have added up as well. Frankly, the American people have the right to expect that their safety commission would have experts as qualified as the Empire State's volunteer group, and that they would attempt to protect the American public as well as some group in New York.
Of course, the CPSC can't respond immediately to every nutty call it might get from some kook contending he used his wife's pregnancy test kit to check for arsenic in his son's sneakers.
But it's not that hard to differentiate among consumer groups. The Empire State Consumer Association has been testing toys for 36 years. Its work has led to numerous CPSC recalls, including one of the largest ever -- millions of toys with parts that could have caused choking.
So when it calls -- twice, by the way -- CPSC should sit up and pay attention, not give it the back-of-hand that it reserves for kooks.
So, first, let's have a recall of this very dangerous bracelet. The Empire State group, in absence of action by the CPSC, is testing similar bracelets for cadmium, with results expected soon.
Second, let's have a recall of Nancy Nord. We invoked our right to recall her earlier after she told worried parents not to even try testing their children's toys for lead, told Congress not to pass legislation enhancing the CPSC staff and sanctions, and told the Washington Post she thought it was just dandy for corporations that the CPSC was supposed to regulate to buy her "gift trips."
The failure of the CPSC to act when alerted to this cadmium danger further illustrates her dereliction in protecting America's children from life-threatening toxins, and her deep deservingness of a public pillory -- one in which none of the clasps contain lead or cadmium, of course.