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Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Jul;119(7):1029-33. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1003011. Epub 2011 Mar 4.

Bioavailability of cadmium in inexpensive jewelry.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Geology & Physics, Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio 44805, USA.



We evaluated the bioavailability of Cd in 86 components of 57 jewelry items found to contain high levels of Cd (> 10,000 ppm) by X-ray fluorescence (XRF), using extractions that simulate mouthing or swallowing of jewelry items.


We screened jewelry for Cd content by XRF. Bioavailability was measured in two ways. Items were placed in saline solution at 37°C for 6 hr to simulate exposures from mouthing of jewelry items. Items were placed in dilute hydrochloric acid (HCl) at 37°C for 6-96 hr, simulating the worst-case scenario of a child swallowing a jewelry item. Damaged pieces of selected samples were also extracted by both methods to determine the effect of breaching the outer plating on bioavailability. Total Cd content of all items was determined by atomic absorption.


The 6-hr saline extraction yielded as much as 2,200 µg Cd, and 24-hr dilute HCl extraction yielded a maximum of > 20,000 µg Cd. Leaching of Cd in dilute HCl increased linearly over 6-96 hr, indicating potential for increasing harm the longer an item remains in the stomach. Damage to jewelry by breaching the outer plating generally, but not always, increased Cd release. Bioavailability did not correlate directly with Cd content.


These results indicate the potential for dangerous Cd exposures to children who wear, mouth, or accidentally swallow high-Cd jewelry items.

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