Costume Jewelry Often Contains Toxic Lead, Chromium and Nickel

A new study has revealed that costume jewelry is often made with toxic lead, chromium, and nickel. Consumer advocacy group, the Ecology Center found that after it conducted a number of tests, many pieces of costume jewelry currently on the market contain high levels of unsafe chemicals and heavy metals, said CBS News. Results of the tests are published at

“None of these things are things you want to have your child exposed to,” Dr. Kenneth R. Spaeth, director of the occupational and environmental medicine center at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York. Spaeth was not involved in the study told HealthPop. “All of these are harmful. Some of them are known to be carcinogens. Many of these are known to be neurotoxic, meaning they can affect brain development,” he added, wrote CBS News.

Researchers sampled 99 children and adult pieces of costume jewelry from 14 stores in Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont: 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. Utilizing an X-ray fluorescence analyzer, the researchers checked for lead, cadmium, chromium, nickel, brominated flame retardants, chlorine, mercury, and arsenic, said CBS News. Results were posted on HealthyStuff’s web site at:

Over half the products tested contained high levels of “hazardous” chemicals, with 27 containing in excess of 300 ppm lead, which is the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)’s lead limit for children’s products; 90% of the items contained chromium and nickel, while 10% contained the toxic metal, cadmium, said CBS News.

“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,” wrote Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center and founder of, in a statement. “We urge manufacturers to start replacing these chemicals with non-toxic substances immediately,” Gearhart added, according to CBS News.

Claire’s Gold 8 Bracelet Set, Walmart’s Silver Star Bracelet, Target’s Silver Charm Necklace, and Forever 21’s Long Pearl Flower Necklace all tested “high”; 39 products from over 10 manufacturers received an overall “high” score.

Scott Wolfson, CPSC’s director of communications, told HealthPop that the Commission began responding the news within hours of it being released and said it plans on picking up samples of the jewelry for its own review. Wolfson noted that most pieces tested were not intended for children, but did note that even young girls could put these products in their mouths, said CBS News.

Lead can accumulate in the body over time and pregnant women, infants, and young children, especially, should avoid exposure to lead. Lead exposure in children and unborn children can lead to brain and nervous system damage; slowed growth; headaches; mental and physical retardation; and behavioral, learning, hearing, and other health problems. The developing brain is of particular concern because lead exposure can have long-lasting effects that can continue well into puberty and beyond. Once poisoned, no organ system is immune. As we’ve written, lead bans prompted many Chinese manufacturers to switch to the equally toxic heavy metal, cadmium, in products they import to the United States. A known carcinogen, cadmium interferes with brain development in very young children; cadmium’s longer-term effects are not always immediately evident.

The federal government has long been concerned about toxic metals, which could be ingested by children who then put their hands in their mouths. As regulations regarding lead have strengthened, cadmium has shown up in a wide variety of children’s products, specifically jewelry. On the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) priority list of 275 most hazardous substances in the environment, cadmium ranks No. 7.

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