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Event Recycling

Children's Jewelry Testing

Frequently Asked Questions

Product testing by the Washington Department of Ecology revealed high levels of the heavy metals cadmium and lead in several necklaces sold as accessories packaged with a girl’s clothing item. Out of the 27 pieces of jewelry packaged with clothing items that Ecology purchased, five were found to contain more than five percent lead or cadmium. Ecology also tested 132 pieces of children’s jewelry sold separately and did not find them to contain concerning levels of these metals. If you purchased one of the affected products, Ecology recommends returning the item to the store or safely disposing of the necklace.

Children can be exposed to these toxic metals by accidentally swallowing a piece of jewelry or by putting it in their mouth. Both cadmium and lead accumulate in bone and soft tissues of the body, remain in the body for a very long time, and can cause serious health effects, especially in children. It is important to avoid childhood exposure to both of these metals. There is no way to tell just by looking at a piece of jewelry if it contains cadmium or lead. The best advice is to keep this kind of jewelry away from younger children.

How do I know if my child's jewelry or accessory contains cadmium or lead?
Ecology tested 159 pieces of jewelry or decorative accessories intended for children. We found concerning levels of lead or cadmium in five of these items, and we have included descriptions and photos of these items.

All of the items that raised concerns were necklaces packaged with a girl’s dress or shirt. Ecology did not test every similar item from every retailer, however, and there is no way to know by looking at a piece of jewelry whether it contains cadmium or lead. Children should never put jewelry in their mouths. Jewelry sold separately was not found to contain high levels of these toxic metals. 

How dangerous are cadmium and lead?
Cadmium and lead are both soft metals that are highly toxic to people, even at low concentrations. Both cadmium and lead accumulate in bone and soft tissues in the body, remain in the body for a very long time and can cause serious health effects, especially in children.

Children are more at risk from these toxic chemicals than adults because they are more likely to put items in their mouths. It is best to prevent the exposure of young children to cadmium in jewelry.

Eating food or drinking water with very high cadmium levels severely irritates the stomach, leading to vomiting and diarrhea, and sometimes death. Eating lower levels of cadmium over a long period can lead to kidney damage, and can cause bones to become fragile and break easily. Lead can affect almost every part of the body, but the main concern is brain development. Higher exposures can lead to more severe damage and death. If your child swallows a piece of jewelry, you should contact your doctor or visit an emergency room.

Detailed information about the health effects of cadmium and lead can be found in the toxicological profiles for cadmium and lead of the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

How are children exposed to lead and cadmium in jewelry?
Swallowing the item is the major concern, although biting or mouthing an item, or frequent hand-to-mouth contact after handling a jewelry piece could also lead to exposure. The amount of exposure depends on how much lead or cadmium is in the piece of jewelry, how worn or damaged the piece is, and how often and for how long a child bites, sucks, or mouths it. Simply wearing cadmium- or lead-containing jewelry is unlikely to cause a significant exposure because almost no cadmium or lead enters the body through the skin.

How else are children exposed to lead and cadmium?
Children are exposed to cadmium from food, cigarette smoke, and industrial releases. Food, cigarette smoke, and industrial releases are also sources of lead exposures, as are old lead water pipes and lead-based paint. Lead-based paints in older homes are the largest source of elevated blood lead levels in children.

Who made these items?
The manufacturers of the items Ecology found to exceed state levels for cadmium were Big Strike Inc., KWDZ Manufacturing LLC, and Kellwood Company. These products were sold under the brand names Soulmates Girl, Beautees and My Michelle Girls. We have notified the manufacturers of these products of our test results and told them that they are in violation of Washington’s Children’s Safe Products Act.

One additional item, manufactured by SWAT Inc. and sold under the brand name Xtraordinary, was found to contain high levels of lead. Ecology referred this test result to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The items found to contain high levels of cadmium or lead are (click on image to enlarge):

Orange dress with gold-colored skeleton key necklace. Product: Caged Back 3/4-sleeve Shift Dress
Description: gold-colored key charm sold with coral dress
Brand: Soulmates Girl
Manufacturer: Big Strike, Inc.
Test result: cadmium - 397,000 parts per million (ppm) (39.7%)
White lace dress with gold-colored charm necklace. Product: KW Ivory Moto Dress
Description: gold-colored bow charm sold with cream dress and jacket
Brand: Beautees
Manufacturer: KWDZ Manufacturing LLC
Test result: cadmium - 534,000 ppm (53.4%)
Black and white dress with silver-colored charm necklace. Product: Lace to Mesh Dress
Description: necklace sold with gold, black, and white dress
Brand: My Michelle Girls
Manufacturer: Kellwood Company
Test result: cadmium - 984,000 ppm (98.4%)
White lace dress with gold-colored charm necklace. Product: All Over Floral Lace Dress
Description: gold-colored charm necklace sold with cream-colored dress
Brand: My Michelle Girls
Manufacturer: Kellwood Company
Test result: cadmium - 931,000 ppm (93.1%)
Pink and black dress with silver-colored necklace. Product: Sparkle Glitter Knit Popover Dress
Description: silver-colored necklace sold with pink and black dress
Brand: Xtraordinary
Manufacturer: SWAT, Inc.
Test result: lead - 50,100 ppm (5.1%)

Where did you buy these items?
Ecology bought them in the store or online from several major retailers. These products may be found at more than one retailer.

Are these products still on the shelves?
Several of these products can still be found in stores or online. Ecology has notified the manufacturers of products found to contain high levels of cadmium that these products violate Washington law and they need to show that they meet standards, or recall the products. Based on the responses we receive from the manufacturers, Ecology may issue penalties or take other administrative actions. Ecology has also referred its findings to the CPSC.

Why is the Washington Department of Ecology taking this action instead of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission?
Ecology shared its test results on both cadmium and lead with the CPSC. The federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act does not regulate cadmium in children's jewelry, but there are voluntary national standards some manufacturers have agreed to meet. Washington's Children's Safe Products Act does regulate cadmium in children's jewelry. For lead, the federal law regulates lead in children's jewelry and preempts state regulations for this product.

Is this a serious threat? How big a problem is there?
Out of the 159 children’s jewelry products Ecology tested, only five contained lead or cadmium at high levels. All of the five items, however, were jewelry products sold packaged with girls’ clothing, which may indicate an issue with this type of product.

Because of this, and because children are more at risk from the effects of lead and cadmium than adults, Ecology is recommending that these items be returned to the store or that the jewelry accessory be safely disposed of.

Why is Ecology buying children's jewelry?
Ecology regularly tests a range of products to ensure they comply with state toxics restrictions and reporting requirements. In the fall and winter of 2015, Ecology conducted a study of toxic metals in children’s jewelry. Washington’s Children’s Safe Products Act establishes standards for toxic chemicals in products intended for children.

How do I safely dispose of a jewelry item that may contain cadmium?
For items already in homes, parents can put the decorative piece in their household trash or check with their local household hazardous waste program on whether it accepts unwanted jewelry. Jewelry containing cadmium or lead that comes from households is not subject to state or federal hazardous waste disposal regulations. The jewelry items should not be donated to charity or otherwise reused. You should store the jewelry away from children until you have an opportunity to dispose of it.