Press Releases

Consumer Watchdog Initiates Nation’s First Legal Action on Cadmium in Jewelry

February 02, 2010

Oakland, CA-The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) yesterday notified four
leading retailers, Saks Fifth Avenue, Justice, Catherines, and Aeropostale that
independent lab testing has found significant levels of cadmium in jewelry
purchased from their stores in December and January.

Legislation in
Washington State enacted last year bans more than 0.004% cadmium in products for
children. Lab tests show that a cupcake pendant on a children’s necklace from
Justice and a pink ribbon “breast cancer awareness” women’s bracelet from a
Catherine’s store each contains more than 18,000 times that level. A 2009
research review found that exposures to cadmium could be responsible for a
significant percentage of the recent increases in breast cancer cases.

Associated Press report in January noted high levels of the toxic metal cadmium
found in many pieces of children’s jewelry, and suggested that, in response to
the new federal law banning lead in children’s products, jewelry makers may be
using cadmium in place of lead.

“Our legal action sends a strong signal
to industry that we will not stand by while they play toxic flavor of the month
with jewelry,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. “Cadmium is toxic
at any age. There is no excuse for cadmium in any jewelry, and we intend to
eliminate this health threat to women and children.”

Cadmium is a heavy
metal that can cause cancer, genetic damage, and kidney problems. A 2006 study
concluded that exposure in children “should be limited as much as possible” to
prevent direct health problems and problems later in their lives. A recent
review of cadmium’s potential for reproductive harm concluded that the chemical
“has the potential to affect reproduction . at every stage of the reproductive
process.”  In men, this includes problems with sperm production; in women, it
includes problems getting and maintaining a pregnancy as well as birth defects.
People can be exposed to cadmium if they touch, suck on or accidentally swallow
metal pieces, and studies show it can stay in our bodies for more than two

The CEH legal notices are based on California consumer
protection law, which applies to any jewelry that exposes children or adults to
significant levels of cadmium. Federal laws on lead in children’s products,
including jewelry, went into effect last year, but a loophole in the law has
allowed jewelry makers to substitute cadmium. Congresswomen Jackie Speier has
introduced legislation to ban cadmium and other toxic metals from all children’s
jewelry nationwide.


“There is no viable reason for cadmium and other
dangerous metals to be used in the production of these consumer goods.  That is
why I wrote legislation banning them from children’s jewelry,” said
Congresswomen Speier.  “But protecting the health and safety of our children
requires a many-pronged approach.  I applaud The Center for Environmental Health
for taking this strong legal action.”


On Monday, California
State Senator Fran Pavley, who in 2006 authored the nation’s first ban on lead
in children’s jewelry, introduced a bill in California to ban the use of
cadmium in children’s jewelry sold in California. “There is absolutely
no reason for our most vulnerable citizens – our children – to be exposed to
this highly toxic metal,” said Senator Pavley. “We can not stand by and allow
manufactures to poison kids by replacing one dangerous metal with another. The
use of cadmium in children’s jewelry is a shameless end run around current law
and I applaud the CEH for their legal action today and for their continued
efforts to protect the health of our children.”

CEH’s 2006 legal settlement with more than 100
companies to end health threats from lead in jewelry formed the basis of a
California law that sets limits on lead in adult and children’s

In January, CEH announced its landmark legal agreement setting
the nation’s first binding rules to end health threats from lead in purses and
handbags. CEH’s legal work has previously uncovered lead threats from toys,
vinyl baby bibs, diaper creams and children’s medicines, lunchboxes, children’s
jewelry, automobile wheel weights, and many other products.

CEH has a
ten-year track record of protecting consumers from hidden health hazards and
protecting communities from health hazards related to toxic pollution. CEH also
works with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier
alternatives to toxic products and practices.

For more on cadmium in
jewelry, read our report on cadmium in jewelry here.

the Washington State ban on cadmium in children’s products, see


For information on federal legislation to ban cadmium in
children’s jewelry (HR 4428), see

For more on CEH’s
legal settlement on lead in adult and children’s jewelry, see

information on California’s jewelry law, see