LOS ANGELES - The top U.S. consumer product regulator is warning Asian manufacturers not to substitute other toxic substances for lead in children's items.
The warning follows the launch of a government investigation into Chinese-made jewelry that lab tests showed was laden with the heavy metal cadmium.
Inez Tenenbaum, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said in taped remarks to be delivered Tuesday in Hong Kong that her agency would be strenuously guarding against attempts to swap one health hazard for another, now that lead is barred under U.S. law in children's toys and jewelry.
"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, barium, in place of lead," Tenenbaum tells an audience of children's products manufacturers, exporters and regulators, according to a transcript.
"All of us should be committed to keeping hazardous or toxic levels of heavy metals out of ... toys and children's products."
The speech follows an Associated Press investigative report that documented how some Chinese manufacturers have been substituting cadmium for lead in cheap charm bracelets and pendants being sold throughout the United States.
In lab testing for The AP, the most contaminated piece of children's jewelry contained 91 per cent cadmium by weight. The cadmium content of other trinkets, all purchased at national and regional chains or franchises, tested at 89 per cent, 86 per cent and 84 per cent by weight. Few of the items contained much lead.
The testing also showed that some items easily shed the heavy metal, raising additional concerns about the levels of exposure to children.
The CPSC reacted within hours of the report Sunday, announcing an investigation while promising to "take action as quickly as possible to protect the safety of children."
CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said the agency would study the test results, attempt to buy the contaminated products and "take appropriate action."