Consumer Watchdog Finds Illegal Jewelry

Click here for photos of illegal jewelry containing lead.

Click here for Caroline Cox’s report on lead in jewelry.

Oakland, CA-The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) announced today that it has found high lead levels in jewelry
purchased from major retailers, including WalMart, Lane Bryant, Express, Anchor Blue, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Longs Drugs (now part of CVS Caremark pharmacies). The California Attorney General yesterday sent a notice of violation of the jewelry law to WalMart, and has recently notified four of the other retailers (Lane Bryant, Express, Anchor Blue, and Longs) about their illegal jewelry. CEH recently notified Abercrombie and Fitch that their jewelry violates the state’s Prop 65 consumer protection law.

A surface coating on a WalMart store-brand green frog charm for a child’s necklace tested as high as 37% lead, more than 600 times over the standard set by the state law that was developed from CEH’s landmark January 2006 settlement with the jewelry industry. The surface coating has variable lead levels, with some pieces testing at more than three times the legal limit.

“While our testing found that a lot of jewelry complies with the law, clearly some jewelry producers and retailers need to do much more to clean up their act,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. “A parent shopping at WalMart or any store should not have to worry that toys or jewelry could poison their child.”

CEH found jewelry in violation of the California law at 7 of the 32 jewelry retailers it has visited since September. The nonprofit’s testing found that 14 of the 21 jewelry samples with high lead levels have metal components that contain more than 50% lead. Longs Drugs was by far the worst jewelry offender, with thirteen lead-tainted pieces purchased from their stores, including toe rings and charm necklaces that are commonly worn by teens or young girls.

The nonprofit purchased jewelry from retailers in the Bay Area and the Los Angeles area in September through November. CEH is investigating jewelry for compliance to the California law as part of a state compliance testing program. The Center is also testing toys as part of the state’s program to enforce compliance to the recently announced settlement the state reached with toy makers.

CEH is hosting several toy testing events throughout the Bay Area, kicking off this Thursday, December 11th from noon to 5 pm at Fruitvale Village (E.12th Street and 34th Ave, Oakland), and is offering free toy testing at its Oakland office (2201 Broadway, Suite 302) Mondays through Thursdays from noon to 6pm, now through December 23. For more information, including a schedule of toy testing events, go to www.cehca.org.

Earlier this month, CEH and a coalition of health groups from across the country announced the updated version of healthytoys.org, an online database of more than 2,800 toys that have been tested for lead and other harmful chemicals. For the database of unsafe and safer toys, see www.healthytoys.org.