Environmental Protection

Low-cost Jewelry Contains High Toxicity

HealthyStuff.org, a website run by the Ecology Center, a Michigan-based non-profit, released a report that several national vendors sell low-cost jewelry that contain toxic chemicals known to cause cancer and allergies. The products, which included inexpensive jewelry for adults and children, were tested for chemicals including lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, bromine, and chlorine (PVC).

More than half of the tested items resulted in a “high” level of concern because one or more of the dangerous chemicals were detected at high levels. The presence of hazardous substances were found by using an X-ray fluorescence detector. Retailers such as Target, Walmart, Claire’s, and H&M were among several popular national chains represented. To find the items tested by brand name and vendor, click here and see the individual contaminants in each product.

“There is no excuse for jewelry, especially children’s jewelry, to be made with some of the most well-studied and dangerous substances on the planet,” said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center and founder of HealthyStuff.org. “We urge manufacturers to start replacing these chemicals with non-toxic substances immediately.”

A total of 27 percent of the 99 tested items contained more than 300 ppm lead in one or more components, which is higher than the legal limit for children’s products. Additionally, ten percent contained cadmium, 93 percent chromium, 30 percent nickel, seven percent brominated flame retardants, and 12 percent PVC. Click here to view a summary of the results as well as other chemicals found.

Cadmium and chromium are known carcinogens. Nickel is carcinogenic in addition to causing skin and lung problems. Brominated flame retardants contain more than 1,000 ppm bromine, which causes nervous system damage and disrupts genetic materials. Chlorine, which is contained in PVC at 25,000 ppm, does not have consistently documented long-term effects, but is know to irritate the skin, lungs, and eyes.

 According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), children should not be given cheap metal jewelry because, “Swallowing, sucking on, or chewing a metal charm or necklace could result in exposure to lead, cadmium, or other heavy metals, which are known to be toxic at certain levels of exposure.”

However, the CPSC has failed to regulate cadmium in children’s products in general, instead opting for a voluntary standard developed by the industry. Six states, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, have moved to regulate the harmful chemical through state law. Also, the Toxics Substance Control Act is in the process of being reformed through a bill, the Safe Chemicals Act (S.847), introduced by Senator Lautenburg in 2011 with 15 co-sponsors.

Click here to watch a video and contact your senators about the Safe Chemical Act.

Posted by Elizabeth Freed on Mar 16, 2012 at 12:43 PM


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