A new study by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) found that cadmium, a toxic metal linked to cancer, kidney damage and reproductive problems after prolonged exposure, was found in jewelry sold at retail stores like Ross, Nordstrom Rack, and Papaya.
“Cadmium is an incredibly toxic metal. Like lead, it causes birth defects. It makes it harder to maintain a pregnancy and it also makes it harder to get pregnant in the first place,” said the CEO of CEH Michael Green.
Recent lab tests found 31 pieces of adult jewelry contained at least 40 percent cadmium, and most were more than 90 percent, according to results shared with AP. The sample items were bought in the San Francisco Bay area in 2017 and 2018.
The most problematic items were found at Ross, which has more than 1,400 stores in 38 states.
Laws Regulating Cadmium
In 2010, California passed a law prohibiting the sale of children’s jewelry with more than 0.03 percent cadmium. The cadmium risk for children is much higher, because they might suck on, chew, or swallow the jewelry. People’s bodies also get rid of cadmium very slowly, and if it accumulates, it can lead to health problems later on.
Testing found the toxic metal was almost eliminated in jewelry within the next couple of years, but it was found again in women’s dresses and shirts where there are no laws prohibiting such production or sales.
“We are very surprised to find that cadmium is still showing up. You cannot legislate against the bad players you know and unfortunately there are always going to be bad players at hand in whatever you’re doing,” said Brent Cleveland, the Executive Director of Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association.
Another report published by CEH in 2010 found that cadmium can stay in the human body as long as 30 years, and evidence shows that it is taken up more easily by children than adults.
“Cadmium exposure at early age should be limited as much as possible,” stated the report.
“It’s very disappointing that we’re still seeing cadmium, an incredibly toxic metal, in jewelry. We found it in 2010 and 36 companies agreed to eliminate it. Now unfortunately in 2018 we have to do the same thing again,” said Green.
Major Retail Stores Have Their Own Testing System
Cleveland also said that most major retailers have their own testing and analyzing system on what they sell, so it may not be a major problem.
Ross issued a written statement saying that they have “addressed this issue with our suppliers” but did not mention if they would pull the suspected jewelry from the stores, especially the ones with high cadmium levels from Tacera and Vibe Sportswear.
Papaya’s attorney, Steve Kim, said Papaya has recalled all the tainted products and stopped buying the jewelry from their manufacturer in China. Some Chinese manufacturers substitute cadmium for lead.
Nordstrom said it is reaching out their vendors to get more information.
CEH posted on its website that if the public is suspicious of a piece of jewelry, they can test it. The process will not damage the jewelry.
The Oakland-based nonprofit organization doesn’t charge for such testing but welcomes donations. People who live in the Bay area can schedule a testing appointment.
There are no federal standards for cadmium concentrations in jewelry. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission does not mandate any cadmium limits, either.
AP contributed to this report