Cheap jewelry may not be such a bargain after all. Newly released test results from the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) reveals some costume-type jewelry sold with women’s dresses and shirts was nearly pure cadmium—a substance that can cause cancer and other serious problems.
In 2010, an investigation found Chinese manufacturers were using the metal to make kids’ jewelry. But because of new laws, consumer advocates believed cadmium had disappeared from the U.S. jewelry market.
Now jewelry with the toxic metal cadmium is showing up on the shelves of stores like Ross and Nordstrom Rack. That’s because unlike children’s necklaces and rings, no current laws address cadmium in adult jewelry.
Last year, CEH decided to check those products. Lab testing found 31 adult jewelry items purchased from retail stores were at least 40% cadmium. Most contained more than 90% of the toxic substance.
Over time, cadmium accumulates in the body and can damage the kidneys and bones. Most exposure happens by swallowing small amounts or by breathing it. Most commonly, this happens through tobacco, which can contain cadmium. But researchers also have documented some absorption through skin contact. Cancer researcher Michael Harbut says contact can also trigger skin rashes including psoriasis.
Most of the cadmium-tainted items were sold at off-price department store Ross, which operates more than 1,400 stores in 38 states. One tested pendant from a necklace was 100% cadmium. The brands with high cadmium levels in Ross stores include Tacera and Vibe Sportswear.
In a written statement, Ross says it is committed to protecting its customers and has “addressed this issue with our supplier.” The retailer would not say whether it pulled suspect jewelry from stores. The lesson? Buyer beware!
(AP Photo: Jewelry items bought from the shelves of national retailers are loaded with the toxic metal cadmium.)