Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

How to avoid jewelry poisoning

No, this isn’t another edition of “Things Environmentalists Say to Ruin Everything.” Sorry, it’s true; your jewelry could be making you sick. (But isn’t it better to know the truth?) Just last week, we reported via the Los Angeles Times that popular retailers recently settled a law suit with California about the dangerous levels of cadmium in jewelry. 

In the settlement between the Center for Environmental Health and major retailers like the Gap, Forever 21, Target, American Eagle Outfitters, Saks, Hot Topics and more, these stores will no longer be able to sell jewelry containing 0.03% cadmium. Further, they will pay a total of $1.03 million to cover jewelry testing and future compliance testing. 

Cadmium is so toxic that the Occupational Safety & Hazards Administration (OSHA) declares even trace amounts as dangerous. At “best” it causes diarrhea and fever, at worse is causes cancer, genetic problems, and kidney malfunction. As the chemical helps add shape to jewelry, Chinese jewelry makers used it extensively in trinkets after 2008 U.S. legislation outlawed the use of lead.

Retailers will no longer be able to sell cadmium jewelry after December 31, 2011. Luckily, you can take steps to avoid the toxic trinkets already on the market.

Cadmium home test kits are available online, but some experts don’t recommend them as the results may not be as reliable as large-scale tests. Instead, check your products against the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission database. You can find a detailed list here of the latest recalls concerning cadmium.

Simply, avoid trinkets made in China and look for the “Made in the U.S.A.” labels where you can clearly read the metal content. Be aware when you buy cheaper jewelry that this could be an issue, so only purchase merchandise with a clear listing of its content.

Finally, if you have small children, make sure they are not able to suck on any trinkets or jewelry that you suspect might contain cadmium. Cadmium is best absorbed into the body when inhaled or ingested. For the rest of us wearing our cadmium? It causes skin irritation.

Image: racchio/Flickr