Not Just the Cheap Stuff: Jewelry from Saks, Other Retailers Tainted with Lead

You might think that a good way to avoid lead-tainted jewelry would be to buy a $200 necklace from a trusted name. But if you purchased the necklace pictured above from Saks Fifth Avenue, you would be wrong. Testing announced today by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) found high levels of lead in several pieces of jewelry purchased in the last two months from four leading retailers, including this $200 necklace from Saks. The California Attorney General has notified Saks and the three other retailers, Express, Wet Seal, and Styles for Less, that their jewelry is in violation of California law.

Just last week, CEH found high levels of lead in jewelry from six other stores, and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control released their findings of leaded jewelry they purchased from Long’s Drugstores and small stores in the Los Angeles area.

Lead is stunningly toxic, and exposure can lead to learning disabilities, behavioral problems, poor growth and other physical problems. Two recent studies, both published in the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’s peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, demonstrated the impacts that lead exposure during pregnancy can have on a woman’s unborn child. One study, investigating children’s IQ scores in relation to their mother’s blood lead level, concluded that lead exposure during pregnancy could have “lasting and possibly permanent effects” on a child’s IQ. The second study showed that lead exposure during the first trimester (three month period), when some women are not even aware that they are pregnant, had the most pronounced effects on a child’s mental development.

CEH initiated its work on lead in jewelry in 2003 and in 2004 the nonprofit took legal action against leading jewelry retailers including Macy’s, Target, Wal-Mart, Express, Claire’s and others. Three weeks later, the government announced one of the largest product recalls in history, when 150 million pieces of jewelry were pulled from gumball machines nationwide.

CEH’s has previously uncovered lead threats to children from toys, vinyl baby bibs, candy and other products. CEH has a twelve-year track record of protecting children from hidden health hazards in consumer products 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.

(Pictured above: Examples of jewelry found with high levels of lead from major retailers, clockwise from top: Styles for Less, Wet Seal, Express and Saks Fifth Avenue).