What to do About Cadmium in Jewelry: Q&A

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Q: What did you find?

A: We purchased jewelry from four leading retailers, Saks, Justice, Catherines and Aeropostale, and found significant levels of cadmium. A child’s necklace from Justice and a pink ribbon “breast cancer awareness” women’s bracelet from Catherines each contain 18,000 times more cadmium than Washington State considers safe for children.

Q: When and where was the jewelry purchased?

A: We purchased jewelry in December and January, at Bay Area and Palm Desert outlets of the stores.

Q: How much cadmium did you find?

A: Lab tests show the jewelry contains more than 5,000 times the legal limit established for children’s jewelry in Washington State.

Q: Why is cadmium dangerous in jewelry?

A: Cadmium is a heavy metal that can cause cancer, genetic damage, and kidney problems. A science review last year concluded that cadmium may be linked to increases in breast cancer cases. Children and adults can be exposed to cadmium if they touch, suck on or accidentally swallow metal pieces, and cadmium can stay in our bodies for decades. In addition, if people touch the jewelry when they are eating they can ingest cadmium.

Q: What testing did you do?

A: We screen jewelry for cadmium in our office with an X-ray analyzer, and then we send pieces to an independent lab for confirmation when we suspect jewelry has high levels of the toxic metal.

Q: What’s the legal standard for cadmium in jewelry?

A: In California, products must be labeled if they expose consumers to more than 4.1 micrograms of cadmium per day. CEH’s 2006 landmark legal settlement with over 100 companies (including the four notified today) formed the basis of California’s law banning lead in jewelry for children and adults. There is no comprehensive federal standard on cadmium in jewelry, but federal legislation has been introduced to ban cadmium in children’s jewelry.

Q: What should consumers do?

A: Our advice to parents and to women of child-bearing age who may desire to become pregnant is to avoid cheap metal jewelry, and look for jewelry made with safer materials.

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