Tests show toxin in chain stores' jewelry

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There's a new warning for consumers about costume jewelry which includes standalone pieces and those attached to clothing often sold at department stores.  

Researchers with the Center for Environmental Health based in Oakland say stores including Ross, Nordstrom Rack and Walgreen carry items that have tested for high levels of cadmium, a toxic metal.

The consumer watchdog group has sent out legal notices to these businesses for failing to warn consumers.

"This one when we tested it.  It had 100 percent cadmium," said Matt Nevins, a research manager for the group, as he pointed to a woman's top with a necklace attached to it. 

Cadmium can cause cancer and birth defects.  

Nationwide, only .03 percent is allowed in items made for children. Researchers say they found levels ranging from 40% to 100%  in the adult jewelry

"There is no law for adult jewelry. We think that these levels are very high and could be potentially dangerous for people who wear the jewelry," said Nevins.  

Cadmium is listed under Prop 65 as a toxic metal.  As such, items with it are required to have a warning label or the stores that sell them to post warning signs. 

The consumer group says none of the retailers that sold these items complied. Customers were unaware. 

"That would concern me, wearing it so close to your skin ...having it on," said Roberta Ratto of Alameda.  
Researchers say skin contact may cause a rash. But most concerning is when someone handles the jewelry because hand to mouth exposure leads to ingestion of cadmium.

It can cause damage to the kidneys and bones. 

Brent Cleveland, the executive director of the Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association said the results do not point to a larger problem.

"We are very surprised to find that cadmium is still showing up. You can not legislate against the bad players," said Cleveland.

"It's their responsibility as a business to warn consumers and give them their right to know," said Nevins. Ross and Nordstrom Rack say the have reached out to their suppliers. At the South Shore Center in Alameda, most shoppers tell KTVU they are unfamiliar with cadmium.

"I'd think twice about what I'm buying," said Germaine Ratto. "I think it's crazy. You shouldn't be selling things that are poisonous to people. We have enough stuff in the air," said Shannon Sasser. . 

Researchers are advising  consumers to wash their hands after handling jewelry with cadmium. They say their goal is to get retailers to stop selling any items with cadmium. The only way to know whether an item as cadmium is through testing. 

The Center for Environmental Health is offering free tests. To drop off the items in person, please call 510-655-3900 or email emily@ceh.org  to make an appointment.  If mailing in the item(s), please include a self-addressed stamped envelope. 

      Center for Environmental Health
      Attn: Product Testing
      2210 Broadway, Suite 302
      Oakland, CA  94612