Inexpensive jewelry in the form of bangles and beads, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings you buy for your children and for yourself may be harboring dangerous metals and chemicals, according to new research. More than half of the jewelry items tested were high in toxins, which could have a negative impact on your children’s health, and yours as well.
Toxic jewelry is being sold at popular stores
The old adage about getting what you pay for appears to be true when it comes to some inexpensive jewelry being sold for children and adults. The Ecology Center of Ann Arbor, Michigan, recently issued the results of new research that showed high levels of toxins such as lead, arsenic, bromine, chlorine (PVC), cadmium, and mercury in low-cost necklaces and other jewelry items.
The investigators tested 99 items of jewelry that came from 14 different retailers in 6 states, including Ming 99 City, Burlington Coat Factory, Target, Big Lots, Claire’s, Glitter, Forever 21, Walmart, H&M, Meijers, Kohl’s, Justice, Icing, and Hot Topic.
The pieces of jewelry were examined using an X-ray fluorescence analyzer, which has been proven to identify toxic elements in products. Here’s some of what they found:
- 57% of the items were rated as having a HIGH level of concern because they contained high levels of at least one hazardous chemical
- 6% of the items rated MEDIUM level of concern because they contained medium levels of one or more hazardous chemical
- 37% of the jewelry products were rated as LOW level of concern because they contained one or more hazardous chemicals at low levels
Chemicals found in the jewelry
More specifically, here are the chemicals found in the jewelry:
- Arsenic: 12 of 95 (13%) of jewelry items tested contained more than 100 ppm (parts per million) arsenic. The Environmental Protection Agency has set the arsenic standard for drinking water at 10 ppm. Arsenic exposure is associated with stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, numbness of the hands and feet, and blindness, and has been linked to cancer.
- Brominated flame retardants: 7 of 95 pieces of jewelry contained more than 1,000 ppm bromine. Brominated flame retardants are associated with possible thyroid toxicity, liver toxicity, and neurodevelopmental disorders.
- Cadmium: Ten items contained more than 100 ppm cadmium in one or more components. Overall, 47 of 99 (47%) of the jewelry items contained some cadmium, which is considered to be “carcinogenic to humans” by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The amount considered safe for oral ingestion in nutritional supplements is up to 3 ppm.
- Chlorine: 11 of 95 pieces of jewelry contained more than 25,000 ppm chlorine. Chlorine indicates the presence of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a widely used type of plastic, and often associated with phthalates. Animal studies indicate phthalates can cause cancer, thyroid and kidney disease, and accumulate in the body.
- Chromium: 92 of 95 pieces of jewelry contained more than 100 ppm chromium. This heavy metal can cause allergic reactions of the skin.
- Lead: Half of the jewelry items contained lead, and more than 50% of these contained greater than 300 parts per million (ppm) of lead, which exceeds the limit set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for lead in children’s products. Lead can be absorbed through the skin. Lead is associated with learning disabilities, behavioral problems, joint and muscle weakness, anemia, organ failure, and death.
- Mercury: 5 of 95 (5%) of the jewelry pieces contained more than 100 ppm mercury. Elemental (metallic) mercury can be absorbed through the skin and cause allergic reactions, as well as permanently damage the brain and kidneys.
- Nickel: 30 of 95 pieces of jewelry contained more than 100 ppm nickel. This metal can cause allergic skin reactions.
Young children are especially at risk for health dangers because they are growing and also more likely to place jewelry in their mouths, which can result in them absorbing toxins. Parents and other caregivers should not allow young children to wear or play with inexpensive jewelry, especially if they are not supervised.
According to Jeff Gearhart, founder of HealthyStuff.org and Research Director at the Ecology Center, “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.”
Gearhart also warned “Our children will never be safe until we reform our chemical laws to ensure products are safe before they arrive on store shelves.” To that end, the Safe Chemicals Act (S. 847) was introduced by Senator Lautenburg in April 2011 and currently has 15 co-sponsors.
Parents and others who are concerned about exposure to toxins from inexpensive jewelry for children and adults can check out the HealthyStuff.org website and look for jewelry items by type, brand, and the toxins found in the product.
Image: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons