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Some Minnesota jewelry contains harmful chemicals like lead

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Healthy Legacy, a statewide public health coalition representing over one million Minnesotans, applauds today’s release of new research on toxic chemicals in low-cost children’s and adult jewelry at by the Ecology Center. Researchers tested for chemicals – including lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, bromine and chlorine (PVC) – which have been linked in animal and some human studies to acute allergies and to long-term health impacts such as birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer. Samples were collected from Minnesota and five other states.


Test results

Over half (57 percent) of the products tested had a “high” level of concern due to the presence of one or more hazardous chemicals detected at high levels. Four products contained over ten percent cadmium, a known carcinogen. Fifty percent contained lead, with over half of these containing more than 300 parts per million (ppm) of lead in one or more components, exceeding the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) limit of lead in children’s products. Two notable examples include a pendant necklace and silver tiara which contained 17,212 and 10,463 ppm of lead respectively, both purchased from stores in the twin cities metro area.

“There is no excuse for jewelry, especially children’s jewelry, to be made with some of the most well studied and dangerous substances on the planet,” said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center and founder of “We urge manufacturers to start replacing these chemicals with non-toxic substances immediately.”

Shouldn't there be a law?

Lead is also banned in children’s jewelry products that are meant for those aged six and under in Minnesota. While not every piece of jewelry tested was geared towards this age group, the potential for children of any age to get hold of these items is high.

“Even though Minnesota has some laws on the books that address toxic heavy metals in children’s products, we continue to find harmful chemicals like lead in items used by kids,” said Kathleen Schuler, Senior Policy Analyst at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and co-director of Healthy Legacy. “That’s why we’re supporting SF 1766, a bill in Minnesota that would require children’s product manufacturers to report the use of nine harmful chemicals, including lead and cadmium, to the state.”

Ninety-nine pieces of jewelry were tested from 14 different retailers, including: Ming 99 City, Burlington Coat Factory, Target, Big Lots, Claire's, Glitter, Forever 21, Walmart, H&M, Meijers, Kohl's, Justice, Icing and Hot Topic. Samples were collected from 6 different states, including Minnesota, Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York and Vermont.

Highlights of Study Results:

  1. OVERALL – 59 percent (58) of products tested were rated as having HIGH level of concern due the presence of one or more hazardous chemical detected at high levels.
  2. LEAD – 27 of 99 (27 percent), including two samples from Minnesota, of jewelry contained greater than 300 ppm lead in one or more components. 300 ppm is the CPSC limit of lead in children’s products.
  3. CADMIUM – 10 of 99 (10 percent) of jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm cadmium in one or more components.
  4. CHROMIUM – 92 of 95 (93 percent) of jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm chromium.
  5. NICKEL – 30 of 95 (30 percent) of jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm nickel.
  6. BROMINATED FLAME RETARDANTS – 7 of 95 (7 percent) of jewelry contained brominated flame retardants (greater than 1,000 ppm bromine).
  7. CHLORINE – 11 of 95 (12 percent) of jewelry contained PVC (greater than 25,000 ppm chlorine).

 “Toxic jewelry is a symptom of the complete failure of our federal chemical regulatory system,” said Gearhart. “Our children will never be safe until we reform our chemical laws to ensure products are safe before they arrive on store shelves.”

Since 2007 researchers at the Ecology Center have performed over 20,000 tests on 7,000 consumer products, including pet products, vehicles, women's handbags, jewelry, back-to-school products, children's toys, building products and children's car seats. 


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