Paying a Toxic Price for Cheap Jewelry

Tags: cadmium, environmental health, jewelry, toxic chemicals

photo: jewelry, cadmium, toxic chemicals

You don’t smoke, you use eco-friendly cleaning products, and you feed your children organic food. But you and your children may still be highly exposed to toxic chemicals like cadmium and lead through an everyday, seemingly harmless item: jewelry.  and The Ecology Center just released new research on toxic chemicals in low-cost jewelry. The report found that more than half the pieces (targeted at both adults and children) had high levels of hazardous chemicals. Toxic chemicals tested included cadmium, lead, arsenic, bromine, mercury, and chlorine (PVC), all of which have been linked to acute allergies in animals and humans, as well as long-term health effects like birth defects, liver toxicity, impaired learning, and of course, cancer.

The study tested ninety-nine pieces of jewelry from fourteen different retailers, including Target, Claire’s, Walmart, and Justice. Many of these jewelry items are aimed at young girls.

[Check out the full results, and find out how your own jewelry stacks up] 

These results make me incredibly unsettled. It’s easy to think of carcinogens as being limited to cigarettes, tanning booths, and even cleaning agents – things I can easily avoid. But I wear jewelry almost everyday,  without thinking about it. One of my favorite activities as a child was playing dress up with my colorful costume jewelry, and I’ve taken my little sister on more than one shopping trip to Claire’s and Justice. How could I know I was exposing her to toxic chemicals? 

It’s clear that we can’t buy our way out of this problem. While reports like these are needed and valuable, it's overwhelming to be absolutely certain that our purchasing decisions are on par with the most recent studies. What we need are stronger chemical policies, both at the state and federal level.

Join Michigan LCV as we ask Senators Stabenow and Levin to support the Safe Chemicals Act. This legislation will succeed where the current Toxic Substances Control Act fails by requiring that companies prove that their products are chemically safe before they are put on the market.

Take Action! 

P.S Want to know more about which toxic chemicals are lurking in your personal care products and cosmetics? Join us for a "Not So Pretty" Workshop on Wednesday, March 21st at 7:30 pm on the UM - Ann Arbor campus.  We'll learn about toxic chemicals in our cosmetics and personal care products, as well as how to avoid them and make our own!  

Blog written by: Annika Doner, Michigan LCV Toxics Education and Outreach Intern