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MARKETPLACE: Beware dangerous bling

CBC Marketplace reports that some costume bling can be dangerous to your health. Mr. T. wears only gold.

CBC Marketplace reports that some costume bling can be dangerous to your health. Mr. T. wears only gold.

Health Canada is getting closer to kicking a toxic metal markets around the Chinese out of kids' jewelry.

Cheap costume jewelry is easy to find: the baubles, bangles and beads are popular bling among kids and teens. But there may be something  in some of that shiny stuff that isn't pretty.

Cadmium is a known toxin. While generally safe to touch if sucked, chewed or swallowed, it can lead to organ failure and, in rare cases, death. The federal government describes exposure to chemicals, like cadmium as a "significant health risk."

In 2015, CBC's Marketplace tested jewelry from major retailers and found some pieces with hundreds of times more cadmium than required by federal guidelines.

In one instance, a blue triangle pendant was 99.6% cadmium - the highest level ever recorded for jewelry in Canada .

Many retailers source much of their costume jewelry from overseas suppliers, often from markets around the Chinese commercial city of Yiwu. Cadmium became the metal of choice after Western governments banned the use of lead in jewelry.

Cadium, like lead, is inexpensive. It has a lower melting temperature than zinc, another ingredient common to costume jewelry, so less  energy is used to produce the product.

"This gives Health Canada greater flexibility and speed to act," says University of Toronto professor Miriam Diamond. "They've got the authority of law behind them."

The upgrading of the regulations is still in the review process. But the 75-day opportunity for business and the public to comment ended this week. The new rules could come in force as early as this spring, but may allow a buffer period for suppliers to adjust.

But the new rule will only govern jewelry marketed directly to children, defined as those 15 years and under. There are no legal limits on cadmium in other jewelry, something which Diamond calls regrettable, as some adults - or their babies - may also suck on bracelets and necklaces.

Watch the CBC Marketplace investigation on toxic jewelry starting tonight at 8:00 p.m. on TV and online.