(NaturalNews) Last week, 16 jewelry retailers and suppliers were sued by the state of California for selling jewelry with more than 1,000 times the allowable lead, as lead-free. Many of the defendants are repeat offenders, and include manufacturers, shippers, sellers, distributors, and traders that do business in California.
The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has publicized this issue a great deal, and despite the public's concern, they have traced hundreds of styles of jewelry that violate the lead standards to these defendants over the last three years. All of the jewelry was labeled as lead-free, or in compliance with lead standards. Some of the jewelry was intended for small children, who are especially susceptible to adverse health effects from exposure to lead.
Without regard to public safety
California's attorney general is concerned that the unlawful practices of the defendants can result in acute and chronic health effects for adults and children. Toxic metal exposure can cause headaches, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, anemia, loss of appetite, constipation, muscle soreness, and neurological impairments such as loss of balance, loss of ability to concentrate, seizures, encephalopathy, coma, even death.
For children, who are especially sensitive to lead poisoning since their bodies and brains are still developing, even mild cases could cause behavior problems, inattention, and learning disabilities, as well as a host of physical health effects. Lead in children's jewelry is even more dangerous if it is placed in the mouth, as children are prone to do, or even swallowed, which would result in higher lead absorption.
Lead is used in jewelry for several reasons:
• It makes the base metal easier to shape • It makes the jewelry feel heavier • It's cheaper to use than other metals • It is sometimes used as a stabilizer in some plastics such as PVC, which is used in costume or children's jewelry.
In California, children's jewelry cannot contain lead content exceeding 600 parts per million. The legal state limit for adult jewelry is 60,000 parts per million. Most of the tested pieces were several hundred times over those limits.
Attorney General Harris says the defendants are selling their stuff in pursuit of profit, without regard for public safety. She is seeking injunctions and civil penalties.
Not just lead - cadmium too
There are still a lot of products on the market with high levels of two neurotoxins: lead and cadmium, which can cause permanent brain damage. Cadmium in another metal to watch for in children's jewelry. Cadmium is more often associated with cigarette smoke than jewelry. It is highly toxic and is a known human carcinogen. Earlier this year the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) chairwoman warned parents against buying cheap jewelry for their kids, such as that from dollar stores or gumball dispensers, and even places like Claire's, Walmart, and other chain stores. A lot of the jewelry on the market that doesn't meet the safety requirements of no more than 0.03 percent cadmium by weight was made in China. Most jewelry tested for cadmium exceeded the CPSC's proposed limits by more than 100 times.
Several watchdog organizations are in the process of cracking down on cadmium as well as lead. Some states are cracking down too, such as California and Rhode Island. There are still no federal regulations on safe levels of these metals. Over the last decade, there have been approximately 5,000 emergency room visits each year by children who had swallowed inexpensive jewelry. Parents can check recall lists and the CPSC website for information on unsafe products, but it's easier and safer to just take away any cheap metal jewelry.