By: Shelby Miller

The Department of Ecology found 98.4 percent cadmium in a necklace attached to a little girl’s dress sold at a popular Washington department store.

The findings were part of a toxic metals study. 

Researchers bought 159 pieces of children’s jewelry and 16 percent of it tested positive for cadmium. 

“Children, especially, are vulnerable because they’re smaller. They’re developing bodies and so they’re more easily susceptible to ingesting and storing these chemicals in their bodies,” said Tina Schaefer, the lead for Children’s Safe Products Act..

Cadmium is a highly toxic metal known to cause cancer.

“Over time it builds up in your system and it is a known carcinogen, so it does cause cancer and it can also lead to lung disease, kidney disease and liver disease as well,” said Schaefer. 

Under Washington law, it’s restricted to 40 parts per million in children’s clothing. For adults, it’s not regulated. 

“There is no reason to not protect adults as well,” said Schaefer. 

The Center for Environmental Health in California recently tested dozens of pieces of adult jewelry. 

Lead researcher Caroline Cox said she found significant levels of the heavy metal in 31 items sold at major retailers such as Nordstrom Rack, Burlington Coat Factory and Walgreens. Cox said the majority of items that tested positive for cadmium came from the discount department store Ross. 

“The problems are really in sort of inexpensive metal jewelry and what we’re suggesting to folks is: Probably stay away from Ross if you’re buying that kind of jewelry,” she said. “We found lots and lots of pieces that were 90 percent cadmium or more.”

KIRO 7 asked if there’s a way to tell if toxic metals are in products you buy. 

“No, not really,” said Schaefer. 

Schaefer said the best advice she can think of is to buy jewelry labeled for kids 14 and under. 

“What we find is, when they’re not labeled, that they often do contain toxic chemicals, so that could be something a consumer could avoid,” she said. 

KIRO 7 asked the Better Business Bureau for advice. Workers call this a “buyer beware” issue, especially at this time of year, with the holidays approaching. 

“A lot of the costumes purchased are coming in from outside of the country and, so, you want to be mindful of where you’re getting your product from, what regulations does that country have as far as what they’re using to put into a product, so that you have a better idea of what you’re bringing home and what you’re putting on your body,” said Veronica Craker, content communications director for the Better Business Bureau.

Cox said many manufactures are based overseas, so there’s not much that can be done when it comes to the production of the jewelry. The Center for Environmental Health said it is taking legal action against Ross and jewelry suppliers selling products that contain toxic metals.