Cadmium spectre haunts quality of silver export

KATHMANDU: Federation of Handicraft Associations of Nepal will take strong steps to end the use of cadmium in the manufacture of silver ornaments and products to make Nepal a ‘cadmium free’ sector for silver jewellery and ware export.

Silversmiths and manufacturers of silver products tend to use cadmium as a mix to skimp on the use of silver, which had soared in price value a few years back. Cadmium has been traced in products being exported from Nepal to Europe, and this has raised alert among buyers there of silver products from Nepal.

“We are starting to run an awareness campaign here as cadmium is a very harmful substance. If exposed to it for a long time, it can prove very hazardous to individual health as well as Nepal’s export business,” said FHAN president Pushkar Man Shakya.

Swiss expert in silver jewellery and silver jewellery and ware importer Thomas Buchli, who has thirty years of experience in the silver business, during his visit to Nepal highlighted the importance of selling cadmium free silver in order to sustain export. “Manufacturers and silversmiths tend to use cadmium as it is much cheaper and looks exactly like silver. But they are oblivious of the fact that it is a very harmful and dangerous substance,” said Buchli.

Buchli also pointed out that long-term exposure to cadmium causes deadly diseases like cancer and various lung and liver ailments. Two people in Patan have died due to exposure to cadmium, confirmed exporter Bijaya R Tuladhar.

“The key way to contain this problem would be to generate awareness among manufacturers and buyers. Cadmium levels can be checked with a machine and it is imperative that the government ban this product,” Shakya said.

FHAN is trying to find ways to buy a machine to check the credibility of silver in the Nepalese market. The contraption is an X-ray machine called NITON XL3. “We will try and get this machine or find another way to acquire it as it is quite expensive. However, in the long run it will ensure the credibility of Nepalese silver products and generate clean business,” added Shakya.

The credibility of the extensive silver export from Nepal to Europe could be imperilled if the cadmium problem is not countered, FHAN wants to contain this issue before it becomes out of proportion. Nepal holds 33 per cent of the European market in silver product trade, and if use of cadmium is not stopped it may completely lose the market.