Lead and Cadmium Found in Greenwashed Urban Outfitters Fashion Accessories

Did you know that Urban Outfitters is selling lead and cadmium-tainted jewelry and other fashion accessories?

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) tested 11 fashion accessory items from Urban Outfitters’ Urban Renewal line, and found that over half the products had stunningly high levels of toxic lead and cadmium (up to 64% lead and 52% cadmium). On its website, Urban Outfitters claims the Urban Renewal line is “Repurposing and reinventing sustainably-sourced vintage pieces” and that the products are “upcycled.”

Sustainability and upcycling are great, and we applaud clothing brands that are actually sourcing sustainable and healthy materials. But selling vintage jewelry containing toxic metals in shockingly high amounts while calling it “sustainable” is greenwashing. Reuse should not expose people to toxic chemicals, and consumers should not be exposed to a toxic chemical without their knowledge or consent.

This is particularly concerning because jewelry and belts are products that many people handle every day. Pregnant and people of childbearing age who may purchase these items are especially at risk because exposure to lead and cadmium can lead to problems getting pregnant, difficulties maintaining a pregnancy, and increased likelihood of birth defects. Exposure to even low concentrations of lead can have harmful and irreversible health effects on vulnerable populations like children.

Lead and cadmium exposure have also been linked to cancer and kidney damage. 

It should not be your responsibility as a consumer to have to know what products could harm your health, or your child’s health. Most jewelry on the market does not have lead and cadmium issues anymore, and it’s time for Urban Outfitters to join its competitors in the field and stop selling fashion accessories containing toxic chemicals.

CEH is calling on Urban Outfitters to ensure that what it is selling is safe for your health before it reaches store shelves, and that’s why we’re asking the $2.5 billion company to commit to basic product safety standards and testing of their Urban Renewal line to make sure their “sustainable” products are actually sustainable for your health, and the environment.

Add your name to our petition to demand that Urban Outfitters stop greenwashing its products, and prioritize your health over their profits.



    Since 2003, CEH has led the effort to protect children and others from lead-tainted jewelry. And we won. We began widespread jewelry testing in 2003, and in 2004 we filed the first legal action in the country to stop the sale of lead-tainted jewelry. Our legal action spurred the largest product recall in U.S. history and led to a landmark agreement with Macy’s, Target, Wal-Mart and over 200 other companies to protect children from unsafe and potentially fatal exposures to lead. Our legal settlement formed the basis for the tough lead in jewelry law adopted by California and later enacted as part of the federal law on lead in children’s products.

    To reduce exposures to lead and cadmium containing jewelry and fashion accessories:

    • wash your hands with soap and water, especially after handling jewelry and other fashion accessories
    • Don’t let your children touch lead containing jewelry or other fashion accessories
    • Be aware that vintage metal jewelry and faux leather accessories may contain higher levels of lead and cadmium due to previously lax regulations and enforcement.
    • How do I find out if my older jewelry contains lead or cadmium?
      • The best way to find out would be to seek out a laboratory that has an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) Analyzer, or offers product compliance testing.
      • Another available option would be to purchase lead swabs from a hardware story. While these are more affordable and easier to access, please note that there is a high degree of uncertainty and potential for false positives or false negatives with lead swabs)
    • The bottom line: treat older jewelry carefully, wash your hands, and don’t let your children touch it.

    April 20, 2023 Update:

    Following the Center for Environmental Health’s (CEH) announcement of stunningly high levels of lead and cadmium found in Urban Outfitters’ Urban Renewal jewelry and fashion accessories, the company has removed the products for sale from its website.

    “We are pleased that Urban Outfitters took swift action to address the lead and cadmium-tainted jewelry and fashion accessories sold under its so-called ‘sustainable’ Urban Renewal line,” said Caitlin Moher, Senior Research Coordinator at CEH. “In doing so, Urban Outfitters responded to the hundreds of consumers who signed our petition demanding that the company prioritize people’s health over their profits. We await a formal commitment from Urban Outfitters to basic product safety standards to ensure that jewelry sold under its Urban Renewal line does not contain any lead or cadmium, as there are no safe levels of these heavy metals.”

    CEH is asking consumers to sign its petition to push Urban Outfitters to prevent this from happening again.