Lead, Cadmium, and Other Toxic Chemicals Found in Costume Jewelry

Sarah B. Weir
Shine from Yahoo! Canada
March 21, 2012

Cheap costume jewelry contaminated with toxic chemicals is not a new story, but what's incredible is that despite warnings, recalls, and regulations, the danger still hasn't gone away.

Researchers from the Ecology Center recently released their findings that out of ninety-nine items of jewelry purchased from stores across the nation, 57% contained harmful chemicals such as lead, cadmium, and chromium. "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, in a press release. "We urge manufacturers to start replacing these chemicals with non-toxic substances immediately."

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The larger retailers included H&M, Claire's, Walmart, and Kohl's.

The study's key findings were:

  • Twenty-seven percent of the jewelry tested contained greater than 300 parts per million (ppm) lead in one or more components. Three hundred ppm is the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) limit of lead in children's products. Some of the items were marked "lead free."
  • Ten percent of the jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm cadmium in one or more components. Cadmium, a known carcinogen, is unregulated.
  • Ninety-three percent of the jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm chromium.
  • Thirty percent of the jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm nickel.
  • Thirteen percent of the jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm arsenic.
  • Seven percent of the jewelry contained brominated flame retardants (in amounts greater than 1,000 ppm bromine).

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According to the Ecology Center, these substances are linked to acute allergies and may cause birth defects, cognitive impairment, liver toxicity, and cancer.

Contaminated jewelry is particularly dangerous for kids who are more likely to put it in their mouths. According to the CPSC, "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." The CPSC has set up voluntary standards for the jewelry industry but six states, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, have enacted tighter regulations.

If you are concerned about toxins in costume jewelry, Healthystuff.org suggests that you support the Safe Chemicals Act, which calls for the phase out the most dangerous chemicals and requires greater testing and disclosure.

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