News Release: Alarming Levels of Lead, Cadmium, and Nickel Found in Vermont Jewelry

For Immediate Release: March 13, 2012

Montpelier, VT – Jewelry being sold in Vermont stores contains alarming levels of toxic chemicals including lead, cadmium, nickel and arsenic, according to a new study. Many of the products tested are aimed at children. The chemicals found in the jewelry have been linked to acute allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer.

The study of low-cost children’s and adult jewelry was released today by The Ecology Center, a Michigan-based nonprofit environmental organization that conducts product testing for hazardous ingredients in items average American families use daily. The full report is available at: Watch a brief video on the findings here:

“As a mother I’m outraged that Vermont stores are selling toxic jewelry aimed at children” said Lauren Hierl, environmental health advocate for VPIRG. “We need to put a regulatory system in place that would allow Vermont to successfully stop companies from producing and selling jewelry and other products that contain well-known toxins that could harm our children.”

Thirty-nine pieces of jewelry were collected from Vermont retailers: 13 from Walmart, 3 from Icing, and 23 from Claire’s. Each retailer was selling at least one piece of jewelry that contained high levels of toxins. Three pieces of jewelry sold in Vermont had high levels of lead (greater than 300 ppm), one piece had high levels of cadmium, and other jewelry contained toxins such as nickel, mercury, arsenic and chlorine (PVC).

Nationally, over half (57%) of the products tested had a “high” level of concern due to the presence of one or more hazardous chemicals detected at high levels.  Four products contained over 10% cadmium, a known carcinogen.  Fifty percent contained lead, with over half of these containing more than 300 ppm of lead in one or more components, exceeding the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) limit of lead in children’s products.

Highlights of National Study Results: OVERALL — 59% (58) of products tested were rated with a HIGH level of concern due the presence of one or more hazardous chemical detected at high levels.LEAD — 27 of 99 (27%) of jewelry contained greater than 300 ppm lead in one or more components. 300 ppm is the CPSC limit of lead in children’s products.CADMIUM — 10 of 99 (10%) of jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm cadmium in one or more components.CHROMIUM — 92 of 95 (93%) of jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm chromium.NICKEL — 30 of 95 (30%) of jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm nickel.BROMINATED FLAME RETARDANTS — 7 of 95 (7%) of jewelry contained brominated flame retardants (greater than 1,000 ppm bromine).CHLORINE — One-third, 11 of 95 (12%) of jewelry contained PVC (greater than 25,000 ppm chlorine). Other chemicals analyzed include mercury and arsenic.

Overall, ninety-nine pieces of jewelry were tested from 14 different retailers, 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.  Samples were collected from 6 different states, including Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Vermont. measured the presence of these chemicals with an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzer – a proven, accurate indicator of elements in products.  Anyone concerned about these jewelry products can visit and search by brand, jewelry type and chemical detected.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), parents and caregivers should not allow young children to be given, or to play with, cheap metal jewelry, especially when unsupervised. The CPSC states that: “Swallowing, sucking on or chewing a metal charm or necklace could result in exposure to lead, cadmium or other heavy metals, which are known to be toxic at certain levels of exposure.”

“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,” said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center and founder of  “We urge manufacturers to start replacing these chemicals with non-toxic substances immediately.”

The CPSC declined to regulate cadmium in children’s products, and instead has supported an industry-developed voluntary standard.  In response, six states have moved to regulate cadmium in the absence of federal leadership, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington State.  Federally, a wave of consumer pressure is pushing a rewrite of the Toxics Substance Control Act (TSCA), the federal law that regulates chemicals in commerce. The TSCA reform bill, the Safe Chemicals Act (S. 847), was introduced by Senator Lautenburg in 2011 and now has 15 co-sponsors.

“Toxic jewelry is a symptom of the complete failure of our federal chemical regulatory system,” said Gearhart.  “Our children will never be safe until we reform our chemical laws to ensure products are safe before they arrive on store shelves.”

Since 2007 researchers at the Ecology Center have performed over 20,000 tests on 7,000 consumer products, including pet products, vehicles, women’s handbags, jewelry, children’s toys, building products and children’s car seats.   All of this research is available at

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