Press Releases

Toxic Fashion: New Testing Finds Major Retailers Selling Jewelry Loaded with Cadmium

For Immediate Release: October 11, 2018

Contact: Caroline Cox, Senior Scientist, CEH, 541-654-2626,
Zack Kaldveer, CEH, 510-938-2664

Center for Environmental Health sends legal notices to 17 companies for failing to warn consumers

Oakland, CA – Independent testing commissioned by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has found 31 jewelry items sold at major national retailers, including Ross, Nordstrom, and Walgreens, containing between 40% to 100% cadmium, with many containing more than 90% of the toxic metal. Cadmium is listed under Proposition 65 by California because it can cause birth defects, reproductive harm, and cancer. CEH has sent legal notices to 17 companies for violating the consumer protection law by failing to warn customers.

The findings, reported today by the Associated Press, show that many of the jewelry pieces contain more than 3,000 times the level of cadmium allowed in children’s jewelry under California law (.03%). Many of these jewelry pieces are sold with dresses marketed to tween-aged girls. The same limit was used in a 2010 legal settlement between CEH and three dozen jewelry retailers and distributors.

“Consumers are being needlessly exposed to a toxic chemical without their knowledge or consent,” said Michael Green, Executive Director at CEH. “This is particularly concerning because jewelry is something that many of us handle every day. Pregnant mothers and women of childbearing age that typically purchase these items are especially at risk to cadmium exposure because it can lead to problems getting pregnant, difficulties maintaining a pregnancy, and the increased likelihood of birth defects.”

In February 2010, CEH initiated the nation’s first legal action against stores and jewelry distributors after testing found high levels of cadmium in jewelry from several national retailers, including stores that cater to young girls. CEH entered into legal agreements with 36 companies, including major retailers like Claires, Gap, Target, and Hot Topic, that applied California’s strict limits on the level of cadmium in children’s jewelry to all jewelry including jewelry marketed to tweens, teens and adults. Setting such limits for adult jewelry not only protects pregnant women but also children who enjoy wearing their parents’ jewelry.

Despite these past legal victories, over the past year, CEH continued to find high levels of cadmium in jewelry sold by seven Bay Area retailers, including American One, Burlington Coat Factory, Nordstrom Rack, Papaya, Tilly’s, Walgreens and Ross. Over half the high cadmium jewelry items came from Ross. CEH also sent legal notices to the distributors of cadmium laced jewelry products, such as American Dream Clothing, Inc.; JCMC Collections, Inc.; Fashion Magazine, Inc.; La Main Connection Inc.; Line SK, Inc.; Mark-Edwards Apparel, Inc.; SJS Apparel, Inc.; That’s My Girl, Inc.; The Skate Group, Inc.; and Trend Textile Inc.

“Since 2010 dozens of retailers and distributors have proven that cadmium is a completely unnecessary ingredient in jewelry,” stated Caroline Cox, Senior Scientist at CEH. “Women of childbearing age should not have to worry that their jewelry may be tainted with chemicals that can cause lifelong health problems, including reproductive harm and birth defects. Manufacturers must immediately cease using this toxic metal in their products, and retailers should stop the sale of all cadmium-tainted jewelry now.”

By taking the issue directly to companies that make and sell toxic jewelry, CEH’s goal is to set a strict, legally binding standard that will protect consumers, especially women of childbearing age, from the health risks posed by cadmium. CEH also supports a more rigorous regulatory approach on the presence of cadmium in jewelry. Current lack of regulation of adult jewelry by state and federal agencies, such as California’s Department of Toxic Substance Control and the U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission, represent significant loopholes that leave both adults and children vulnerable to this dangerous toxic exposure.