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Environment

EU Bans Cadmium In Jewelry, Plastics

by Britt E. Erickson
May 30, 2011 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 89, ISSUE 22

The European Union has banned the use of cadmium in jewelry and all plastic products effective Dec. 20, according to an amendment added to the chemicals law Registration, Evaluation, Authorization & Restriction of Chemical substances (REACH). Cadmium is a known human carcinogen and is toxic to aquatic organisms. Previously it was used in plastics as a coloring agent and stabilizer. It has been banned in the EU in most plastics since 1992 but was allowed in some polyvinyl chloride because alternatives were unavailable. The European PVC industry has since found alternatives to cadmium. The legislation will allow low levels of cadmium in a limited number of construction materials that are made from PVC waste to encourage recycling. The ban on cadmium in jewelry is intended to protect consumers, particularly children, from the toxic metal, which has been increasingly showing up in inexpensive costume jewelry imported from China. The legislation also bans cadmium in brazing sticks, which are used to join dissimilar metals in applications such as steam engines for model trains, because of the fumes released during the brazing process.

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